March ProVisions: Teaching Service-Learning Courses

The March ProVisions session focused on the topic of Teaching Service-Learning (S-L) Courses, with the two presenters providing insight on how to incorporate S-L into a variety of classes as well as a specific example of how S-L has already been incorporated into a Philosophy classroom.  The presenters included Fred Boehrer, Coordinator of Academic Service-Learning here at Saint Rose, and Jeanne Wiley, Associate Professor of Philosophy.

Boehrer began his presentation expressing how S-L benefits not only students but faculty, the college, and community organizations.  Boehrer said that S-L is a pedagogy, a teaching methodology that is classroom-based, involving not only preparation and service/volunteering, but reflection as a key component.

Boehrer explained that all courses can include S-L, and provided a variety of models:

–   A class can visit a community partner together.
–   “Buffet Style” – Students choose where to volunteer based on options offered by faculty.
–   A class can be divided into 2 or 3 sections to visit 2 or 3 community partners.
–   A community partner can be invited to campus and then a decision can be made on how to connect.
–   Problem-Based Service-Learning – A community partner identifies a problem, rather than faculty.

Boehrer said that there are three important things to consider when considering incorporating S-L into a course: time (to create/adjust syllabi, to connect with community partner, to assist with reflection), transportation (i.e. walking, St. Rose shuttle, St. Rose vans, public busses), and turnover (maintaining those community partnerships as teachers/students leave/graduate).

Boehrer also mentioned that Saint Rose’s S-L blackboard site will be launching in April.  The site will have numerous resources for S-L including sample syllabi, forms, lists of community partners, course related info, and transport info.

Jeanne Wiley followed Boehrer’s presentation, discussing her personal experiences with S-L in her own Philosophy classroom.  One of the first points that Wiley was sure to make was that her students do not simply earn credit for going out and “playing board games,” but that their service counts for field research that supplements traditional book work that then informs their reflection essay.  (You can find Wiley’s course materials in the previous post here)

Wiley explained how her course is a general education requirement, where the 60+ freshmen often feel “forced” to be in their class, something unrelated to their major that they were placed in.  Presented with this challenge, Wiley has found community service as a way to get students to see ethics as important to their lives.

Wiley then proceeded to talk about her process of incorporating S-L into her classroom.  For Wiley, the first step was conceptual, determining how S-L would help students achieve her course objectives.  The next step was logistical, thinking about her hour and fifteen minutes of class time, and realizing that in order for S-L to work within her course, students were going to have to be responsible for taking initiative with their service outside of class, a type of homework.  Lastly, Wiley explained that it was then about actually designing the curriculum.  She said that for her, it is important that students don’t have a collective experience.  She also mentioned that she often has to work to prevent “drive by service” from those minimalist students, stating that she in fact does subtract credit from those students who do not go outside their comfort zone.

To listen to a podcast of the March session, click here!


Service-Learning Overview

The topic of the next ProVisions session, which will be held next Tuesday, 3/26, at 12pm in Standish A/B, is Teaching Service-Learning Courses.  The presenters will be Fred Boehrer, Ph.D., Coordinator of Academic Service-Learning, Community Involvement Faculty, and Jeanne Wiley, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.


In preparation for these presentations, Dr. Boehrer has put together a Service-Learning Overview.  The following is the information that he has provided:

Service-Learning is a pedagogy for deepening students’ understanding of course learning objectives by connecting with off-campus community partners.

Service-Learning courses are not the same as Community Service.

While both involve volunteering, Service-Learning is classroom-based, with “volunteering” or “community service” integrated into the course syllabus.  Through Service-Learning courses, students have an opportunity to reflect on their volunteer experience through the lens of their course concepts and theories.  Studies have shown that students in Service-Learning courses grasp course learning objectives better than students in non-Service-Learning courses.

Teaching Service-Learning classes require a little extra planning and flexibility, but the rewards are very significant.

Do you want to explore syllabi offered by other faculty in your academic field?


Do you want an introduction on how to teach a Service-Learning course?


Do you want to learn about how to connect with a Community Partner for a Service-Learning course?


Are you interested in more resources for teaching a Service-Learning course?


Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges dedicated to service-learning.

Saint Rose is a member of Campus Compact. This site contains a plethora of resources for faculty (syllabi, faculty toolkits, service-learning models, assessments, research opportunities, etc.)

Do you want to teach a Service-Learning course at St. Rose for the 2013-14 year?

Please join us:

Service-Learning Training Workshop for Saint Rose faculty

Friday, April 12

10am to 1pm (lunch included)

CCIM Conference Room 118

1006 Madison Avenue

Please contact Fred Boehrer ( to sign-up.

As Coordinator of Academic Service-Learning, Fred Boehrer

– supports faculty who are currently teaching service-learning courses

– invites and provides training for faculty interested in teaching service-learning courses

– networks Saint Rose faculty, administrators, staff, and students with local community organizations (“community partners”)

– networks with service-learning advocates at local colleges

Jeanne Wiley will also present next Tuesday and is allowing us to share her Ethics & Values syllabus and her Service-Learning guidelines with other faculty.  Browse at your leisure!

Ethics Service Learning Project Guidelines Spring 2013

Ethics Syllabus Spring 13 – Wiley

We look forward to seeing you March 26th!

Competency-Based Education & the Credit Hour

In his post “Rise of Customized Learning,” Paul Fain discusses competency-based education and its focus on “performance and results” rather than seat time.  The post runs through how several institutions have continued to expand their competency-based offerings and the problems that revolve around these offerings relative to the credit hour, “higher education’s gold standard,” when the online degree programs are typically self-paced and emphasize the testing of competency rather than faculty-student contact time.  Some of the institutions that Fain discusses include Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Bellevue University.  Mary Hawkins, Bellevue’s president, says that now is the time to experiment with customized learning, predicting that competency-based offerings “will be a big innovation in higher education and where online learning has its biggest strength.”  For more information on competency-based approaches click here.


In his post “Hour by Hour,” Fain discusses the origins of the college credit hour, explaining that it was never intended to be used to measure student learning, yet it has become a measure and a proxy for what students are supposedly learning.  Fain writes, “An over-reliance on the credit hour, which links the awarding of academic credit to hours of contact between professors and students, has led to many of higher education’s problems.”  Some of the concerns with the credit-hour model include the issue of the rejection of transfer credits (wasting students’ money and time, in part because schools don’t trust what constitutes a credit hour at another institution) and the obstruction of innovation (as it is difficult to apply the “seat-time” standard to online classes).  As Fain points out, competency-based education, in which students learn at their own pace, is a particularly bad fit with the credit hour.

According to a new report from the New America Foundation and Education Sector, the credit hour standard falls short because it does not measure learning, identifying problems with grade inflation and the inflexibility for students to learn at different speeds. As a result, the credit hour stands “at the intersection of three of higher education’s thorniest issues: cost, time and academic quality.”

Fain proceeds to points out that “blowing up” the credit hour won’t be easy because in addition to it being so convenient, “opening the floodgates to federal aid without some standard for measuring learning could encourage diploma mills and a wave of unearned credits for cash.”  According to the New America Foundation and Education Sector’s report, “Abusive interpretation of the credit hour could lead to fraud on a huge scale. But the credit hour is also archaic, a nonsensical basis for regulating online programs in which the whole notion of time in the classroom has no meaning…Define the credit hour too tightly, and innovation would be stifled. Define it too loosely, and taxpayers would get taken for a ride.”  Despite the difficulty in redefining the credit hour, Fain concludes that there seems to be a real desire to move away from seat time.

Career-Oriented Majors versus Liberal Education

In “Are Career-Oriented Majors a Waste of a 4-Year Higher Education?,” Jeff Selingo looks at the real-world impact of the push for American higher education to graduate more students in an effort to put the United States at the top in the world’s education competition.  Selingo refers to a recent post in The New York Times titled “It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk,” by Catherine Rampell, which opens with the statement: “The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.”


In her article, Rampell explains that economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and that it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Rampell writes that “across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma… are increasingly requiring one,” with this “up-credentialing” pushing the less educated even further down the food chain (citing the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma as more than twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent).

In a similar article by Rampell, “Degree Inflation? Jobs That Newly Require B.A.’s,” she comments that “despite the sob stories you hear about unemployed college graduates, bachelor’s degrees have actually gotten more valuable over time”  as not only is the wage gap continually widening, but it seems as well that “more employers are using bachelor’s degrees as a signal of drive or talent, regardless of the relevance of the skills actually learned in college.”  While college degrees may be getting graduates the only lowest level jobs, with degree inflation, people without degrees are being weeded out of opportunity instantly.student-debt

While Selingo might agree with Rampell in that the overabundance of degrees does not render them useless, citing he is not in the in the camp of the “Don’t Go to College” crowd, he does, however, hold the idea that without high-quality training and apprenticeship programs as real alternatives to those ill-suited for college, many higher-education institutions have become solely high-priced job-training centers.  Selingo mentions that though colleges have marketed their practical academic programs in a way to raise demand for more of them, it seems that some graduates of those programs are finding it difficult to land a job despite having majored in the latest career fields.

Selingo notes that according to surveys and interviews, top business executives say they like workers who are “creative, are adaptable, and have the ability to communicate and think critically—all telltale signs of a classic liberal education.”  So while we know that the future economy needs more Americans with a high-quality education after high school, Selingo poses that “there is certainly a place for purely practical training programs within our broader goal to be first in the world in an educated work force, but the question increasingly should be whether all of those programs need to be housed at expensive four-year colleges.”