See more from this Session: Experiential Learning and Action Education: II
Monday, October 17, 2011
Henry Gonzalez Convention Center, Hall C, Street Level
International learning experiences are increasingly considered critical by universities in order to address the breadth of knowledge and skills required by food, sustainable living, and agricultural scientists. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (2007) stated that 72% of over 300 executives of companies in the USA want colleges to place more emphasis on “global issues and developments and their implications for the future”. There is a shortage of personnel possessing sufficient skills; in language (particularly Spanish) and team-work especially, culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse. As a result, international experiences are not only desired but even required in some cases. Coupled with the desired background in agriculture is the need for individuals to have international experience. The agricultural discipline lends itself to fit within the service learning model, where students learn and receive academic credit for participation in activities that help meet community needs. Unfortunately, there are at times disconnect if a student has never participated before in a service learning course and the student proceeds to participate in a study abroad course with a service learning component. This clearly requires explaining reciprocity and moving the student’s mentality away from “just me”. As instructors and leaders of study abroad courses it is essential to implement the pedagogy of caring and to prepare a civic mentality in order to bridge service learning to “Why should I care?” to learn and contribute in community engagements within the university setting. Taking small steps to integrating service learning into the curriculum helps promote the reason to care and to respect community engagement. The steps taken to develop this pedagogical strategy stem from creating critical relationships between local living environments to the reason why one needs to partner with international communities. The subject matter knowledge and skill was put in place with a service learning model. The results of the study suggested that short-term study abroad pre-programs had an impact on participants. The students had a better understanding of how to interact with the local people and felt prepared for service learning projects because they had practices in the USA.