Profiles in Community Engaged Learning- Nicola McClung

Nicola was asked, what inspires you to integrate service-learning or community-engaged pedagogies into your courses?

N.McClung Headshot w_glasses 2016.jpg

Nicola McClung

Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco- School of Education

Excerpt from the August 2016 Profiles in Community Engaged Learning. Professor McClung teaches Early Literacy.

I was first inspired to integrate community-engaged pedagogy into my course when looking for books for my daughter. She is a beginning reader, and I had difficulty finding books I wanted her to read.

Although multicultural children’s literature clearly makes an important contribution to the pursuit of equity and justice for all, it continues to be limited in several ways. Enter any classroom, home, or pediatrician’s office where an effort is being made to include diverse perspectives, and one will typically find books about able-bodied heteronormative white children living “normal” lives: a new puppy; bedtime; mom, dad, and baby; expressing emotions; going to school. In the same room, recent titles reflecting diversity might include: Heather has Two Mommies; Don’t Call Me Special; Black, White, Just Right; It’s Okay To Be Different; I Love My Hair; Day of the Dead, The Skin You Live In, Some Kids are Deaf, or Everybody Cooks Rice.  That is, few books include characters that come from diverse backgrounds in which their social markers (e.g., the disability, being black, having gay parents) are not the focus of the book. Furthermore, when diversity is reflected, many authors fail to write in such a way that allows for independent reading and maximally supports children’s literacy skills. For example, although there are some picture books that contain anti-oppressive themes (e.g., African American History) they are almost always books that must be read aloud to children.

I also draw from my experiences as a teacher in San Francisco schools, including at Rosa Parks Elementary in the Western Addition.  The project is based on the assumption that having access to texts that reflect diverse perspectives is motivating; in addition to high quality multicultural literature, we need books that contain universal themes depicting minority characters living everyday lives—e.g., a scientist who is a black female, a school principal who is multilingual, a soccer player with a disability, a mailperson who is trans, or kids simply having fun! These types of books are greatly needed for children from minority backgrounds to identify as readers and to see themselves as valued members of society. At the same time, such books allow students who identify with the dominant culture to come to see their minority counterparts as central to a well-functioning society (Dean-Meyers, 2014).

At the end of the summer, seeing the Prince Hall students excited about being authors, and seeing themselves in the books, inspires me to continue to the project and sustain the community partnership. Likewise, knowing that we are in some small way closing the cultural/linguistic distance between teachers in training and students in urban schools provides a purpose to the work that is important to sustain.

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Ready, Set, Engage! The Authentic Video Guide to Community-Engaged Learning

Star Moore, Director of Community-Engaged Learning

Star Moore
Director of Community-Engaged Learning

The Leo T. McCarthy Center’s Communty-Engaged Learning team is currently developing a video series entitled, “Ready, Set, Engage! The Authentic Video Guide to Community-Engaged Learning”, designed to prepare undergraduate and graduate students for participation in community-engaged courses and activities. This series features University of San Francisco students, faculty, and community partners sharing their perspectives, insights, and reflections on their experiences with community-engaged learning.

Making its debut in May, this series will gradually be integrated into service-learning and community-engaged courses next fall.  A curriculum guide will be developed this summer to accompany the videos, and will offer an array of learning activities, discussion prompts, and additional resources that faculty can use to engage students more deeply with the themes and issues discussed in the series. We are also exploring the possibility of licensing and selling the series to other institutions.  For a sneak preview of the video series, we encourage you to watch the promo!

This series has been designed in collaboration with our creative and visionary filmmaker, Elizabeth Dausch, who has worked closely with us to capture compelling interviews and dynamic footage of our students in action on campus and in the community.

Sociology major, Mary Cruz is among the students featured in the series. She speaks passionately about how the community action project in the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars Program fostered her academic learning, personal growth, and vocational calling.

We also interviewed community partner, Sam Dennison from Faithful Fools, who emphasizes the importance of entering community with an open mind and open heart.

Associate professor of sociology, Stephanie Sears described in her interview some of the community-engaged projects that have provided mutual learning and benefit for her students and community partners.

These voices, accompanied by many others, will guide students to think deeply and critically before they leave campus, so they can enter into their community-engaged experiences with humility, respect, enthusiasm, and a predisposition toward learning.

What does community-engaged learning mean to you? Share your answer in the comments section.

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