Service-Learning Integrated throughout the College of Engineering (SLICE)

About the SLICE Program

The vision of SLICE is to integrate service-learning into a broad array of courses so that students will be exposed to service-learning in at least one course every semester in the core curriculum in every program in the entire college of engineering.

Service-learning is the integration of academic subject matter with service to the community in credit-bearing courses, with key elements including reciprocity, reflection, coaching, community voice in projects. (Jacoby and Associates, 1996, p. 5)

Service-learning has been shown to be effective in a large number of cognitive and affective measures, including critical thinking and tolerance for diversity. As a result, service learning leads to better knowledge of course subject matter, cooperative learning, recruitment of underrepresented groups in engineering, retention of students, citizenship as well as the meeting of ABET 2000 criteria a-k, well-known to engineering educators.

The goal of the proposed project is to revitalize our college through the energizing pedagogy of service-learning. The thesis is that service-learning spread throughout the core curriculum is more effective than one intensive course, which is more effective than none at all, that a mixture of required and elective service-learning (s-l) is more effective than either one or the other, and that service-learning will result in less coursework time than traditional programs satisfying ABET 2000 criteria. Incorporation of service-learning does requires creativity, time, and effort. The SLICE project will be directed toward planning for implementation: faculty recruitment and training, program and course modification, assessment, and dissemination of results. The implementation and assessment phases of the proposed study are expected to have significant impact on students, faculty, institution, and community. Expected outcomes of the project to be planned would include, very briefly, increased experiential learning of engineering subject matter, recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in engineering (particularly women), tolerance of diversity, cooperative learning, active citizenship, and a more enlightened and livable local and global community. Dwight Giles, a well-known researcher of s-l, will be our consultant, and we are collaborating with MIT on developing and testing assessment measures.

To our knowledge, no college has integrated s-l into its core required courses for at least one every semester. It takes considerable creativity to link course objectives with meeting real needs of a community, either local or international, with hands-on projects. Development of assessment tools of such a broad approach is challenging.

The results from this study should be applicable to almost any college of engineering. The assessment protocol and instruments are expected to be useful for many institutions with similar broad scale, long-term impacts. The implementation and assessment phases of the proposed study are expected to have significant impact on students, faculty, institution, and community on a variety of measures.