Quality Enhancement Plan Focuses on Service Learning

Palm Beach Atlantic’s new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) looks to service learning as a means to improve student learning.

The theme, “Reach Out, Reach In, Reach Up,” in effect mirrors the University’s motto: Enlightening Minds, Enriching Souls, Extending Hands. Service learning is the area of intersection of academics, spiritual formation and service, making it a natural project for Palm Beach Atlantic, according to information shared at a town hall meeting held on campus at the end of April.

Service learning is defined as a transformational experience that reaches out to address community needs, reaches in to reflect for understanding and reaches up to integrate learning with faith, as shared by the presenters at the meeting representing the committees. While Palm Beach Atlantic’s signature Workship program has been addressing community needs since 1968, Kate Magro, director of Workship, explained the distinction between the volunteer service program and service learning.

“Volunteerism benefits the community partner solely. Internships and preceptorships focus only on the student needs. Service learning is where the student and the community partner benefit equally,” Magro said. “The hinge point in service learning is the faculty member and what they are trying to teach in the classroom. Service learning is a tool in the instructional tool box.”

Service learning is mutually beneficial, meets learning outcomes, includes a reflection by the student and has a grading component, Magro says. She gave examples of recent academic projects that would meet the four-prong criteria of a service learning.

Dr.  Angie McDonald, who co-chairs the QEP project with Dr. Tom St. Antoine, talked about the development of academic assessment tools that have been tested during selected courses during the spring semester. That testing is continuing in several summer courses, she said. A key part of the academic assessment is critical reflection completed by the student. A rubric that will be broad enough to apply to the breath of the University curriculum is in development in order to be ready for Fall 2018. Assessment of PBA’s service learning project will take place from Fall 2018 to Spring 2023.

Student Government representative Jillian Kane, a junior Biblical Studies major, spoke about the graphic design competition that was open to all students to develop a logo for the project. Additional student components of the project will be rolled out in the coming year, she said.

Carolanne Brown, assistant provost for Accreditation, Assessment, and Research, shared the process that resulted in selection of service learning as the theme. She recognized the Spring 2016-17 contributions of the Implementation Team of Dr. Art Johnson, Dr. Cora Barnhart, Mamie Kisner (a member of the University’s board of trustees), Dr. Craig Hanson, Dr. David Compton, Dr. Jamie Fairclough, Marcus Braziel (Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness), Dr. David Horkott, Dr. Nathan Lane, Michelle Keba (Resource Librarian), Erin Schaffer (Accreditation, Assessment, and Research Coordinator), and Kane, Brown and Magro.

The plan does not begin until Fall 2018 after it has been approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) on-site peer review team in March 2018. Fall 2017 will continue planning.