Don’t let larger class sizes be an excuse for avoiding community engagement

By John Hamerlinck

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Big Classes Encourage Experiments in Teaching” by David Glenn, shed some light on the fact that strained budgets are leading to larger class sizes at many colleges and universities. I have written previously that we need to look at economically-driven institutional change in terms of the opportunities they present. This phenomenon is a good example.

There couldn’t be a better time to expand our notions of what “service,” and “service-learning” might entail. If you previously had 20 students volunteering at – let’s say – a food shelf; and now you suddenly have 30 students in that class – why not expand your options beyond either sending 30 students to the food shelf or giving up altogether because logistically, 30 is just too much extra work.

What if 15 students did the food shelf service and 15 students worked on strategies to help food shelf users find employment. What if all the students worked on a sustainability plan for the employment piece, so that the effort could be part of a long-term commitment by multiple faculty, staff and students. What other ways can we come up with to mobilize even more educated people to solve pressing societal issues?

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