Community-based Learning in University Spanish Education: An Exploration of Student and Community Partner Outcomes
Subtirelu, Nicholas C
This dissertation explores community-based learning (CBL) in university Spanish education. Although Spanish education continues to construct Spanish as a foreign language (Leeman, 2014), recent trends such as changing demographics in the US have led to calls for Spanish education to focus more on US Latinx communities (e.g., Torres, Pascual y Cabo, & Beusterien, 2018). CBL offers the opportunity to do so as students engage with local Latinx communities through service work. While much research has explored students’ language-related and cultural outcomes as a result of Spanish CBL, less attention has been given to other student outcomes as well as community partner outcomes. Given this, I draw on the perspectives of three key stakeholders–students, instructors, and community partners–to explore the opportunities and challenges related to developing community awareness and addressing community partner needs in Spanish CBL. Taking a qualitative case study approach, I conducted interviews with the instructors, community partners, and students from two focal courses. I also collected data through classroom observations, a student questionnaire, and collection of relevant course documents including students’ reflection essays and course syllabi. Findings showed that each course took a different approach to CBL as demonstrated by instructors’ and community partners’ goals and motivations as well as the course curriculum and class time. Despite these differences, both instructors and community partners appeared to position the development of students’ community awareness and addressing community partner needs as important. My analysis also demonstrated that the development of students’ community awareness was fostered and constrained by particular practices and characteristics of service work tasks, ideologies about the place of sociopolitics in the curriculum, and the extent to which the community partner acted as a co-educator. Furthermore, I found that service work, instructor-community partner communication, and students’ continued engagement with community organizations impacted whether and how community partner needs were addressed. This study has implications for Spanish CBL at the pedagogical, departmental, and institutional levels. As more Spanish departments offer CBL courses, university and community organization stakeholders need to consider why and how they can build relationships that work in solidarity with local Latinx communities.
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