Running head: CASE STUDY B


Case Study B Sally Blechschmidt Loyola University Chicago



Undergraduate research and service-learning are both high-impact practices identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (Brownell & Swaner, 2010). This case study will analyze one article related to community-based research, and it will also present a newly developed undergraduate research program, Neuropsychology Research Experience for Undergraduates (NREU) (Merkel, 2003). The analysis will include the core experiences of the community-based research program, the opportunities for formative and summative reflection, the involvement of community members, and how the author could improve the experiential learning practice. The case study will also review the learning outcomes of NREU, the core experiences, the reflection activities, and how this program will qualify as an experiential learning experience. Part I Core Experience Throughout the article, Weinberg (2003) discussed how “students have the skills and opportunities to do surveys, focus groups, asset mapping, and qualitative interviewing” (p. 27). The students also gained experience within and beyond their academic curriculum. They developed a greater understanding of “social, political, and economic challenges to community development” (p. 28). They learned about marketing, research, business strategies, oral and written communication, and the importance of technology. Given these experiences, the students likely obtained many of the benefits of undergraduate research and service-learning (Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education [CAS], 2008a, 2008b; Eyler & Giles, 1999). The students directly applied their research skills, developed interpersonal skills, and also improved upon their communication skills. These projects required the students to identify gaps in the community, recognize what was already being done well, and

CASE STUDY B develop plans for future improvement. Consequently, the students also likely improved upon their critical thinking skills. Reflection Initially, Weinberg (2003) discussed how he integrated the community issues and readings into classroom discussions and final papers. Although, the author did not specifically state whether these discussions and assignments were shaped as formative or summative reflection opportunities, the students may have benefitted from these opportunities to process


their community involvement with related coursework. Nevertheless, as the author continued to develop relationships with the community, he also integrated more reflection into his coursework. The students would relate their experiences to urban readings; they would identify challenges and strengths in their work; and, they would have the opportunity to present at three points in the semester in order to obtain feedback from their peers. The students also presented their research to the community, which could fulfill the CAS (2008b) requirement of undergraduate research programs of needing to have an opportunity to disseminate their findings. Weinberg (2003) reported that he recognized when students gained more from the community-based research experience, and he modified the courses accordingly. He reported that he based the grade on the overall reflection of the experience: students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, integrate course readings, and make sense of their community work. This summative reflection allowed for an overall understanding of what the students gained, rather than basing their learning on the community-based research alone. Community Involvement When Weinberg (2003) began the article, he wrote that “institutions of higher education have an ethical responsibility to local communities” (p. 26). Upon first read, this statement

CASE STUDY B sounded as if the university was working for the community rather than working with the community. However, as the article progressed, the focus seemed evident that Colgate University wanted to “move from charity to justice, from service to the elimination of need” (Jacoby, 1996, p. 9). Nevertheless, concern continues to exist as to whether the college was in a


true reciprocal relationship. For example, Colgate University provided 80% of operational costs to the non-profit organization. Is that reciprocal? Will the community feel compelled to do what the university suggests because of the contribution disparity? The difference between Colgate University’s values and actions may be incongruent. Regardless, the use of a sustainable community development model promoted on-going involvement with community members. This process allowed for community control; and with student participation, the community was concerned less about university pressure. Although a reciprocal relationship may not have fully existed with the university, a reciprocal relationship may have existed directly with the students. The students gained practice conducting research, and the community improved their development process. Ultimately, this structure supported the community’s voice, which “should make sure that the voice and needs of the community are included in the development of the community service program” (Jacoby, 1996, p. 30). The community could identify what they needed and what they wanted to improve. Because of students interviewing and surveying community members, more people were directly involved in providing a community voice. Opportunities for Improvement At first, Weinberg (2003) lacked intentionality in his course design. Some of the community relationships failed to provide opportunities for students to practically apply their coursework. Even if students had a negative experience, they should not sit idly by while others

CASE STUDY B participate in the community. Eyler and Giles (1999) wrote that “programs have to be very thoughtfully designed to create opportunities for sustained community involvement and intellectual challenge” (p. 167). The author needed to assume more responsibility for the students’ fieldwork. In the future, the author should place more effort and intentionality about how students will work in the community and what their specific learning goals will be. Another area of improvement is students’ continuity in the experience (Eyler & Giles, 1999). When the author took students out of a community-research experience because of an


inappropriate comment, he missed an opportunity to educate within that environment. Although politics may have played the larger role in removing the students from the placement, allowing students to feel the discomfort in that environment, identifying how to mediate those difficult experiences, and learning how to modify their behavior would have provided an opportunity for greater development. The students needed to learn the importance of rebuilding relationships. A third opportunity for improvement is the use of reflection during independent study courses. The author provided assistance for research and methodological questions, but the remainder of the work was supported through the community. Although this structure is a standard of undergraduate research (Kinkead, 2003) the author should have also provided reflection opportunities for students throughout these projects. Did the students gain the benefits of undergraduate research within the community? Can these courses still be considered highimpact activities? Reflection remains a critical component to maintaining an experiential learning experience. A final area for improvement is that the author should include students in defining the learning outcomes of the program. For example, the author would replace students if they were not performing to his expectation level. However, is education the main component, or are

CASE STUDY B research and community development the major priorities? Additionally, were there clear learning objectives agreed upon by all parties? Service-learning programs require that all members have a voice when constructing the experience (CAS, 2008a). Perhaps, the students were not included in the discussion of learning outcomes, which made them less engaged in the experience. If the author implements these changes, improvements will likely occur in his community-based research program. Part II Overview


A Research I institution obtained a grant from the National Science Foundation to begin a Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The psychology department and the career center collaborated to form the Neuropsychology Research Experience for Undergraduates (NREU). NREU is an eight week, six credits, curricular summer program which focuses on the growing field of neuropsychology and how students can develop their career goals. The program targets 15 juniors which includes a critical mass of under-represented students. The program can only admit 15 students because the grant covers tuition and a stipend for those involved. Additionally, given that the summer session enrolls fewer students in courses including a laboratory requirement, ample space is available for the 15 NREU participants. In order to recruit students, the career center and the psychology department advertise with academic advisors, the office of diversity and multicultural affairs, career services, the office of residence life, and the foundational psychology and biology courses. The advertisements discuss how to apply, what the benefits are, and how many credits one would earn. In the application, students must explain why they are interested in neuropsychology, what type of research they would like to conduct, and how the research will influence their career

CASE STUDY B development. They must also indicate a population of preference (traumatic brain injury


patients, the older adult population, or children with birth defects) to study and explain why they have chosen this group. Applicants must be of junior status because the base level psychology and biology courses must be completed. Learning Objectives Three learning objectives frame this undergraduate research program: 1. Report how cognitive damage or impairment may influence psychological behavior 2. Discuss how your population’s challenges are similar or different to the two other populations studied in this seminar 3. Articulate how your undergraduate research learning can translate into career opportunities Core Experiences and Reflection During this eight week program, students will attend courses two days a week for three hours to review the methodological issues within neuropsychology research. For these class periods, students will work directly with a faculty research mentor (Kinkead, 2003). The faculty member will use event reporting techniques (Rice, 2005) in order for the students to reflect on what they have learned in the laboratory over the past week. The students will discuss what they have learned with their peers, and they will compare and contrast what they have learned about their respective populations. The faculty member will also require students to read and discuss a relevant journal article each week, so that students may have a better understanding of the current issues in the neuropsychology field. To address students’ career development, they will also meet with a career advisor one day a week for two hours to discuss and reflect upon their development within the undergraduate



research program. Within these sessions, the students will write key-phrase reports (Rice, 2005). The higher education professional will provide the students with three words related to career development at the beginning of the summer term. Then, the students will be required to reflect on their experience and how it relates to their career goals. Are the students finding a career fit? Do they enjoy the population with whom they are working? Do they find the work challenging and fulfilling? If not, why? Each week these written reflections will frame discussions with their peers and the career advisor. The remaining 32 hours a week will be spent in a neuropsychology laboratory conducting research on how one’s cognitive capacity can influence their psychological behavior. The students must maintain written documentation of their research. At the end of the semester, the students will write a comprehensive report of their academic findings from the summer program. The students will present their results to their classmates, and they will also discuss how they evolved in their career development as a result of the course. Additionally, at the beginning of the Fall semester, a summer research symposium will provide an opportunity for the students to disseminate their research findings to the larger university community (CAS, 2008b). Depending on the students’ level of engagement in their undergraduate research project, they may have the opportunity to publish a journal article with their faculty mentor. This component of the program is not required; however, it is highly recommended. Learning Experience Brownell and Swaner (2010) wrote that undergraduate research programs support “improvement in writing and communication skills, increased frequency and quality of interaction with faculty and peers, gains in problem solving and critical thinking, higher levels of satisfaction with the educational experience, and greater chance for enrollment in graduate

CASE STUDY B school” (p. 33). NREU provides hands on experience in a laboratory, direct interaction with a faculty member, and career exploration. The reflection activities force the students to contemplate the current issues of neuropsychology and improve their critical thinking skills. They must convey the challenges and opportunities of their research with their peers and faculty mentor. They must also continually reflect on how the research experience can influence their


future career. Furthermore, the program requires students to present their findings in an oral and written format. Students will become more competitive for the work environment or graduate/professional schools, build their analytical skills, and more likely persist toward graduation. Especially for students from underserved backgrounds, this program can be even more successful (Brownell & Swaner, 2010). Conclusion Undergraduate research programs are an excellent opportunity for students to engage more fully in their academics and identify whether to pursue a career in that field. However, students may have difficulty joining these programs (Merkel, 2003). Consequently, the developed program reached out to numerous offices on campus in order to identify students who may not normally have access to the program. This intentional recruitment varies from the article analyzed in Part I of this paper. Once students are more engaged in their university, they are more likely to persist until graduation and consider graduate programs. Hopefully, this highimpact practice will continue to grow and be an avenue for all students to achieve their learning goals.

CASE STUDY B References Brownell, J.E. & Swaner, L.E. (2010). Five high-impact practices: Research on learning outcomes, completion and quality. Association of American Colleges and Universities. Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2008a). Servicelearning programs: CAS standards and guidelines. Retrieved from


Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2008b). Undergraduate research programs: CAS standards and guidelines. Retrieved from Eyler, J. & Giles, Jr., D.E. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Jacoby, B. & Associates. (1996). Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Kinkead, J. (2003). Learning through inquiry: An overview of undergraduate research. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 93, 5-17. Merkel, C. A. (2003). Undergraduate research in research universities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 93, 39-53. Rice, K. (2005, July). Reflection and student learning. Paper presented at the National Community Service Directors and Service Learning Directors Retreat of Campus Compact. Weinberg, A. S. (2003). Negotiating community-based research: A case study of the “Life’s Work” project. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, 9(3), 26-35.

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