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Scholarly Teaching Grant 2014-15: James Bunker

James Bunker, Communication Studies

Encouraging, Implementing, and Assessing Higher Education Student Civic Engagement and Service Learning in the University Classroom


Concern with declining levels of civic engagement has received significant attention and there is interest in how to teach and engage students within the context of higher education (Jacoby et al, 2009) and on the role of service learning in achieving that objective (Battistoni &Hudson, 1997; Campbell, 2000; Hunter & Brisbon, 2000). Davis and Mello (2012) argue that the most useful way for instructors to stimulate civic engagement and reach students is to familiarize themselves with the relevant scholarly teaching and learning literature on civic education that discusses how to motivate and engage new and uninterested students. Other research indicates that service learning models where students take content based courses with a service learning component provide the best way to immediately integrate a foundation for service and learning within university students (Dallimore et al, 2010).

The purpose of this project is to become familiar with the relevant scholarly literature on civic engagement and service learning in order to incorporate it into an established political communication course and to determine the best way to motivate and engage students to participate in civic life within the context of a university classroom and beyond. The following research questions will guide this project:
  • What are the best practices that instructors can employ to stimulate university students to participate in civic engagement?
  • What are the best practices for implementing service learning in a university course to stimulate student civic engagement?
  • What assignments are best suited for civic engagement service learning?
  • What is the best way to assess and improve student civic engagement?