Center for Academic Service - Learning

University of Wisconsin-Superior

Swenson Hall 2047
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880

ph. 715-394-8518

Monday - Friday
8:00am - 4:00pm

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Center for Academic Service - Learning

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Partnerships between UW-Superior campus and community

Posted on May 23, 2013
click to enlarge
Jason Abrahamzon helps two students count the dots on dominos at Family Forum.

Jason Abrahamzon helps two students count the dots on dominos at Family Forum.

UW-Superior prides itself in building progressive partnerships with the Twin Ports community -- partnerships built through careful planning, organization, and execution with leadership from departments, programs, student organizations, and administrative offices.

One such program is the Center for Academic Service-Learning (CAS-L). CAS-L's mission is to provide support and resources to match learning outcomes with community needs; CAS-L values the discovery, collaboration, and transformation of students, staff, and community members. During the 2012-2013 academic year, approximately 1,400 students served 23,421 hours to the community.

What is Academic Service-Learning?

Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) is an innovative teaching and learning strategy that provides students with opportunities to deepen their knowledge and learn new skills by matching academic goals to the needs of community organizations. Students apply concepts and skills they learn in the classroom to real-life situations in the community. In return, the students gain practical experience for professional development and strengthen their citizenship skills.

Dr. Eleni Pinnow, an Assistant Professor of Psychology, has applied Academic Service-Learning to a few of her psychology courses since she started at UW-Superior. "I had so much fun with it, and I saw such growth in my students, that I was hooked," said Pinnow. Without AS-L, Pinnow said her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) course "wouldn't be able to function because the AS-L placements are a central part of the curriculum." When new topics are covered, students spend quality time thinking about how the concepts would really look; the students then try to apply these concepts to their specific AS-L projects. ABA is the use of conditioning and learning principles to modify socially significant behavior. Students learn to use positive reinforcement and other techniques to promote social appropriate behavior explained Pinnow.

Students serving in Superior

Twenty-three students had to opportunity to serve the Superior community this Spring Semester through Dr. Eleni Pinnow's ABA at UW-Superior. Students served two hours a week for the duration of the Spring Semester at either Animal Allies or Family Forum, Inc. Family Forum, Inc.'s mission is "dedicated to providing comprehensive educational programs and services to children and their families." Animal Allies "strives to ensure a lifetime of loving care for every pet by reducing overpopulation, increasing adoption, and fostering humane values."

Real-world benefits and opportunities

Students benefit the most from seeing the real-world applicability of the course content. Pinnow asserted that her students can see how important a behavioral technique is after they test it out themselves. As a professor, Pinnow benefits the most from seeing her students get excited about her course. "I get to see my students take real pride in what they are doing…I love seeing the light bulb click on when they realize, 'wow, I can do this, this makes sense!'"

Jason Abrahamzon, a counseling graduate student from Superior, described his AS-L experience as a unique opportunity to see psychological concepts in practice. He served in a Head Start classroom with Family Forum, and he witnessed positive reinforcement and shaping as the young children started learning the alphabet.

Shandi Janz, a psychology major from Superior, first assessed the behavioral needs of children in the classroom at Family Forum in order to decide with whom to spend time. She then tried supporting a few of the children that had more behavioral challenges to help them succeed.

Student share the rewards of service

Students from Dr. Pinnow's course reported the multiple benefits they received, both academic and personal.

Blake Austin, a psychology major from Cloquet, MN, liked being able to observe the children's behavior at Family Forum and then spend time supporting the children during free-play and class work by adding new thought-provoking dimensions to play time.

Abrahamzon thought that seeing the children want to learn and being able to nurture the children's love of learning were the most rewarding aspects of the experience. He described watching the children share their knowledge and excitement about learning with their classmates. The children's pride and ownership in teaching others was one of his more interesting experiences.

Janz was happy to serve with Family Forum; it was "definitely a good hands-on learning experience." She has a passion for helping others; she is interested in the psychological reasons why people act certain ways. She wants to be a middle school counselor in the future and work to end the cycle of bullying. This experience was her first encounter with positively influencing children's behavior. This "hands-on experience reinforced my want and desire to help children," said Janz; it was a peek into what her future holds.

The enhancement of course learning objectives through meaningful community service

"AS-L makes my students actually learn something that will stay with them for a lifetime. Learning definitions from textbooks or lectures is basically dead knowledge - students may remember it until the test or the final, but that's about it. AS-L challenges students to incorporate their coursework into their real-world knowledge and apply it in a meaningful way," said Pinnow.

The coursework from Applied Behavior Analysis did prepare him for what he experienced, said Abrahamzon. "We all see things in action, but now we have a name to use and identify it," this can promote children's behavioral and academic development.

The bookwork and class discussions helped with the experience, said Janz. She used the readings to help the children she weekly worked with weekly.

Austin shared how he learned to apply what was taught and discussed in the course to his experience at Family Forum.

Class discussions with small groups and reflection papers allowed Abrahamzon, Austin, and Janz to discuss what they all witnessed at Family Forum. These discussions helped them retain the information said Abrahamzon. "It allowed us to be proud of our achievement and get even more excited."

Connecting with the Superior community

Austin described how he has always cared about his contribution to the local community, and he felt he had not done anything significant before this experience. After his time with Family Forum, Austin saw how easy it is to make a positive effect on children with just a few hours per week.

Abrahamzon now feels more connected to the Superior community in the sense that he is now able to contribute and help children learn and enjoy learning. Before this experience, Abrahamzon did not really know much about Head Start programs like Family Forum. After gaining a new perspective and insight this semester, he can see the crucial importance of programs like Head Start at Family Forum with children's early development. This experience was a fantastic opportunity to get real-life experiences, to take a [college] student out beyond the class and books, to get into the material said Abrahamzon.

News Contact: Katelyn Baumann | 715-394-8429 | kbauman3{atuws}
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