Quality Enhancement Plan
IntroductionTo enhance student learning, the College of Coastal Georgia selected Learning through Engagement: Service-Learning as the topic for its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The development and implementation of the selected QEP fits well within the College's mission that clearly identifies service-learning as an integral part of the institution. The College involved a broad range of constituents from across the entire campus – faculty, staff, students and administration – and the community in a year-long initiative of research and intense discussion to consider various ideas for the QEP. After identifying student engagement as a broad-based topic with a particular emphasis on service-learning, the QEP Steering Committee articulated the following service-learning goal: to integrate and enhance student learning and development through hands-on, experiential activities that also meet community needs.
The four primary objectives undergirding the QEP goal are to: (1) develop critical and creative thinking and reflection skills in all students; (2) enable enhanced understanding of course content; (3) enable community engagement and promote leadership; and (4) promote social responsibility, global awareness, and openness to diverse perspectives.
Service-Learning BenefitsService-learning at the College of Coastal Georgia has become a key feature of students' educational experience, allowing students to develop the skills and capacities they need to be successful in a 21st-century work and living environment. Additionally, service-learning is academically integrated – service is part of the coursework, not an additional requirement, and it includes substantial, ongoing forms of structured reflection (before, during, and after the service). Further, service-learning values local knowledge and involves community collaborators in the design of the service project; it is based on collaboration and reciprocity; and its partners work together to identify problems and interventions that meet short-and long-term goals.
Through a process of active reflection, students are able to link their service experience to classroom texts in ways that allow them to gain a deeper understanding of course content, develop skills in community leadership, advance their awareness of global issues and diversity, and exercise social responsibility. At the same time, service-learning allows students to practically test and apply their skills and ideas through hands-on career and professional development experiences that also serve vital community needs.
Since its implementation, service-learning courses have provided students with a number of outstanding academic and career benefits:
- Gaining a deeper understanding of course concepts through the opportunity to test and apply ideas in hands-on, real life community environments;
- Making a positive contribution to the community;
- Practicing and exploring possible career tracks;
- Having a meaningful experience to put on one’s resume;
- Developing strong communication skills through collaboration with diverse groups in the community;
- Increasing connections with faculty members and community mentors;
- Developing one’s capacity to connect academic theory to practice; and
- Developing research, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills.
Planned assessment methods include evaluation at the course-level and institutional-level, as well as annual performance reports and planning retreats.
The institutional intent is to build capacity for the practice of service-learning, empowering the College to become Georgia’s College for Service-Learning.