Center for Citizenship and Community

FAQ-Developing Indianapolis Community Requirement and Service-Learning Courses

 What is the Indianapolis Community Requirement?

The Indianapolis Community Requirement is a learning initiative with Butler's core curriculum that involves active learning experiences that integrate classroom knowledge with activities in the Indianapolis community. Students "take one course in any part of the University that involves active engagement with the Indianapolis community" (Report of the Core Curriculum Task Force, 2005). For detailed guidelines see ICR Guidelines on this page.

Why should I teach an Indianapolis Community Requirement course?

There are many benefits to teaching ICR courses. A summary of benefits for students, faculty/staff, and the community are detailed on the Indianapolis Community Requirement page. Motivation for teaching these courses can also be found in reading Faculty/Student testimonials.

Why should I incorporate service-learning into my course?

There are quantitative and qualitative reasons to incorporate civic engagement or service-learning into a course. On a qualitative level, service-learning can help students develop into engaged and active citizens, with a greater understanding of systems, relationships, diversity and the value of life experience. In addition, students frequently develop civic skills while gaining a deeper knowledge of the course material. Service-learning often helps develop partnerships between faculty, students and the community. Quantitatively, there is evidence that service-learning enhances retention and usefulness of learning.

According to the National Training Laboratory of Bethel, Maine the average retention rate of learning increases as students become more involved in the learning process. At the top of the pyramid is a 50% retention rate as a result of group discussion (a potential reflection method), 75% as students practice what they are doing, and 90% as students teach others or put the learning to immediate use. Service-learning seeks to put the theories and concepts students are learning in the classroom into practice through the relevant service work they complete on-site.

How do I get started?

The first step to developing an Indianapolis Community Requirement course or a service-leaning course is to review your learning goals and outcomes. It is crucial to ask questions such as, "how will service and/or community engagement enhance my course material?" and "what do I want my students to gain from this experience?" These initial questions will help determine if civic engagement fits with the objectives of the course and can help guide your decisions. "Fit," whether it be the inclusion of service in a course, the selection of service site, the level to which you ask you students to serve, or the type of reflection you require, is critical.

If I need help getting started, is there someone or some office on campus that can provide assistance?

Yes. Butler University's Center for Citizenship and Community can help you think about how community engagement might be integrated into your course. The CCC can also help you find and contact possible service sites.

The Center for Citizenship and Community is located in Jordan Hall, room 109C. 
You may contact Donald Braid, Director, at 317-940-8353 or at dbraid@butler.edu.

What kinds of courses satisfy the Indianapolis Community Requirement?

The ICR is conceptualized as a pedagogical approach or process that is used to teach the content of an existing course-whether the course is in the core, in the major, or is an elective. ICR courses should involve a direct strategy for furthering students' understandings of the nature of community and the relation to self, whether through class exercises, discussions, or reflection assignments that directly focus attention and dialogue on students' emergent understanding of this learning objective. The CCC is currently pursuing three models for courses that satisfy the Indianapolis Community Requirement: 1) Courses based on a traditional service-learning model, 2) courses based on the SENCER model, and 3) courses based on our critical-listening paradigm. See ICR Guidelines for further details on these models. 

What does "active engagement" mean?

"Active Engagement" means that engagement with the community must be sustained, substantive, and reciprocal in the sense that students engage with community members in an ongoing and dialogic way. The Indianapolis community requirement is not satisfied with "one touch" encounters, electronically mediated encounters, or similar relationships where there is no opportunity for dialogue and development of relationship and deepening understanding of community and community members (whether this dialogue is with an individual or series of individuals).

How is "community" defined for the purposes of this requirement?

The community with which the students engage must: a) be external to the traditional university classroom, b) provide an experience that brings the students into relationship with individuals and communities that differ from the university environment, and c) be representative of the broader populations, networks, and communities that comprise Indianapolis. An active learning experience that occurs within a local community beyond the Indianapolis area might conceivably satisfy the ICR when this experience is "brought back" in a meaningful way to enrich the Indianapolis Community. Where students in partnership with faculty mentors wish to propose these experiences to satisfy the ICR, they must petition the Associate Provost for Core Curriculum and Interdisciplinary Programs in advance of the experience.

How much time must students commit to community engagement in an ICR course?

Student experiences should involve direct contact with community members for a minimum of 20 hours over the course of the semester.

How can I have my course designated as a service-learning and/or Indianapolis Community Requirement course?

The relevant Application and Guidelines can be found on our site, and the CCC is happy to assist you in the process of filling out and submitting these forms.

Where can I find examples of syllabi or course descriptions of other service-learning courses?

A collection of resources for faculty teaching Indianapolis Community Requirement and service-learning courses is available on our Teaching Resources page. You might also want to look at syllabi archives at National Camus Compact (www.compact.org/category/syllabi/) or at Loyola University (http://evergreen.loyola.edu/rcrews/www/sl/syllabi.html).

How do I identify an appropriate community partnership site?

Since a key element of the Indianapolis Community Requirement and service-learning is that the engagement should be reciprocally valuable to student and community partner alike, it is important to match the learning goals and outcomes of the course with the needs of the community agency. Developing sustainable outreach partnerships that enhance Butler's academic/urban mission takes significant time and effort. In partnering with other individuals and programs at the university, the CCC serves as a resource that brings forth ideas, shares experiences and offers contacts earned from a decade of outreach work, research and service-learning program development. The Director of the Center for Citizenship and Community can provide assistance in locating and contacting appropriate sites. To facilitate ICR course development, the CCC is building reciprocal community partnerships based on learning engagements within a series of interrelated pathways: Art and Culture, Inter-generational, Education, Environment, Health, Intercultural, Economic, and Socio-Political. We may already have an established partnership that would provide the kind of engagement that you are seeking.

What do site personnel typically expect from our Butler students?

They expect our students to be conscientious, reliable, and respectful of the individuals with whom they are interacting.

How much time does it take to plan and execute an Indianapolis Community Requirement or service-learning course?

Much depends upon the instructor's course objectives and the level of involvement the instructor deems desirable for her/his students to have at a given site. As with any new course preparation, the time commitment is greater than preparing, revising, or restructuring a non-civic-engagement course. We recommend that first-time practitioners contact the CCC in the semester prior to the semester in which they intend to execute the community-based activities.

How do I assess student performance in an ICR or service-learning course?

This question needs to be answered by the individual instructors, but we recommend that the instructor consider how the service is fundamentally connected to academic objectives before integrating the service-learning experience into the course grading plan. Students, while not graded on their service, are required to perform a designated number of service hours as a minimum requirement of the course, and the quality of their service and work at a site will affect their grade. As with many other forms of experiential learning, there is a strong link among the service site coordinator, site staff, and the faculty member coordinating the service-learning class. There should be consistent and constant dialogue between all parties in regards to performance, obligations, needs and accountability.

What is the difference between a service-learning course and a course with service-learning component?

Depending upon the course objectives and structure, the difference between a service-learning course and a service-learning component may be large or subtle. A service-learning course typically relies upon service learning as a pedagogical method. The learning objectives of a service-learning course may therefore be focused to expose students to the central theories and methods of service-learning practitioners, to use this pedagogy to more effectively teach disciplinary content, or to achieve outcomes related to personal and social responsibility, intercultural competency, or civic mindedness. Discipline-specific courses may be augmented with a service-learning component that either adds a new dimension unit to a course that relies on service-learning.

Does Butler recognize service-learning as part of the tenure review and promotion process?

Yes, but as with any teaching, scholarly or service activities, it remains the responsibility of the individual faculty member to document and demonstrate the significance of the service-learning dimensions of their work to their overall performance as a member of the academy.

How does Butler recognize Civic-engagement and service-learning as an academic aspect of our student's accomplishments?

Indianapolis Community Requirement courses and service-learning classes will be identified on student transcripts.

Are there liability issues associated with service-learning and/or other experiential learning opportunities that require students to perform service off campus?

Practitioners of experiential education have long recognized the risk and potential liability issues associated with service-learning. Butler University like many educational institutions continues to develop guidelines for instructors, students and community partners to follow. The CCC has developed ICR Contracts containing a liability waiver that all students must sign before undertaking work at community sites. We also recommend that instructors encourage students to work in teams, avoid traveling alone and always exercise judgment and discretion when interacting with personnel and individuals at service sites. We encourage members of the Butler community to work closely with the CCC as a resource that can help in the identification of service sites that are appropriate for experiential learning opportunities.