According to Holy Cross’s Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, 91% of students at the College indicate that CBL has helped them learn more deeply than they otherwise would.
I wanted to explore the correlation between CBL and understanding learning objectives in the interviews I conducted with six Holy Cross students, so I asked each interviewee if and how CBL affected his or her interaction with course materials.
As it turns, it wasn’t a matter of if CBL affected how each student interacted with course materials; it was a matter of how. Students mention how CBL better equipped them to understand course materials by providing real world examples. This idea of “putting a face to the theory” makes these theories more real and more urgent, according to some of the interviewees.
Some mention how CBL mainly affected their interaction with course material in a reflective sense. Both Cassie G. and Alexandra C. discuss how, at the time of their involvement, their service work did not correlate clearly with course materials, but that by the end of the course they recognized the ways in which CBL bolstered their understanding of the course’s learning objectives.
I have had similar experiences in my own CBL involvement. When I first began working with Let’s Get Ready (LGR) for my Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies course in the spring of 2013, I was skeptical of how I would be able to connect my role teaching a free SAT-prep course to low-income high school students with the topics of gender we would be studying. As my involvement progressed, so did my skepticism.
It seemed to me that my CBL placement site shed light on theories I had studied in Sociology 101 the prior semester. Everything I’d been learning about institutionalized racism and classism and educational injustice was easily recognizable in my work with Worcester Public School students. But I couldn’t see any relations to feminist and other theories we were discussing in my Women’s and Gender Studies course.
I didn’t give up, though. Coupling my service with classroom objectives forced me to consider it from a multiplicity of perspectives. I had a reflection paper to write, after all, and I would have to come up with something. Class discussions and personal reflections pushed me to make those connections and see the theory in the practice.
Many of the interviewees also mentioned how CBL didn’t just relate to their objectives for one specific course; it tied back to the values and ideals of a Jesuit education on a broader level. Working with CBL encourages us as students to take our knowledge with us when we leave the classroom and use it toward personal growth and social betterment.
Below, I’ve included samples of original student work* to serve as a representation of how civic engagement can affect a student’s interaction with course materials. The materials I’ve gathered from the interviewees generous enough to share them with me come from projects for class. From my own portfolio, I’ve included both reflective writing exercises from classes I’ve taken and an application essay in which I discuss how my experience in CBL has impacted me academically and personally. Click on each student’s name to see the materials he or she has shared with me.
“As human beings, our fundamental values are the need for self-awareness, affection, respect, sexual fulfillment, and self-management over one’s activities. However, in a political economy, people are separated into a social system of class, race, and gender/sex. This separation isolates everyone from each other, including those who are privileges. Even if the elites of the capitalist system benefits off of profits and the social system, they are still being damaged because of the lack of connection they have with everyone else. The separation forces them to be obsessive over work, managerial control over work, and restrictions on friendship, intimacy, and community. Moreover, the privileged class not only is exploiting the working class, but they are also harming the biosphere we lived in. It is harming everyone’s well-being and survival because a political economy with social systems allows the elites to commit unjust treatment towards “inferior” human beings and the ecological system.”
*All student materials showcased on this website are the property of the individuals who produced them. Materials may not be copied or distributed without the express permission of the individuals.