Before joining the team at Campos, I worked in academia for the past 15 years. I can personally attest to the trends we see in a generation of people who seek validation through rubrics, point systems, and overly structured evaluations as discussed in our recent posts about A MEASURABLE LIFE.
I quickly learned to never spend the first day going over the syllabus, a standard practice in most higher education classrooms. Students immediately flipped to the page that listed their assignments and requirements. After realizing the amount of writing and reading that was required in my course, their eyes glazed over with fear and anxiety, and I completely lost my connection to them.
To remedy this, I implemented a week long ice-breaker activity at the start of each semester to model the many styles of learning, critical thinking, and ways of interacting that would be expected of them throughout the course—the results were fascinating!
I saw my students transform into lively, energetic, and connected young people with less angst over how they would be measured and more desire to co-create knowledge with me and one another.
However, I had to continue to dig deeper to find lasting solutions in order to reach a generation of Millennials who were drowning in standardized testing, but who also craved community and connection with one another. I knew the best way to find a solution was through research that used emerging and cutting-edge qualitative methods. How could I combine technology, community, and increase critical thinking skills in my courses to be a more effective teacher and increase my students’ skills and knowledge?
As a scholar, it was clear that I needed to design a study contextualized by existing research, so I conducted a digital ethnography to explore how a community service pedagogy would work in my classes. For this project, all of my students chose a community organization they were interested in, and subsequently spent time in service with this community throughout the semester. They documented 5k races and food drives on their mobile phones, reflected online through digital diaries, and wrote research papers tying their practical experiences into course concepts and theories. What resulted from this study were solutions I could implement in all of my courses!
I found that a community service learning course yielded a treasure trove of results:
- Enhanced students’ comprehension of academic material.
- Positively affected students’ attitudes regarding social and community issues.
- Increased feelings of empowerment.
- Produced a greater interest in issues relating to diversity.
- Developed a greater sense of personal responsibility.
- Increased cultural competencies through application of theory and methods within multicultural contexts.
The direction qualitative research is taking, something we at Campos call “NextGen Qual,” parallels the same methods I used to find solutions in my academic research. NextGen Qual is about leveraging consumers’ desire to be a participant in the research process, and share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences with one another to generate newer levels of understanding. Discovering people’s insights based on their willingness to openly share on online platforms is a fundamental premise of NextGen Qual. As was true in my academic research, here at Campos, we know it takes going beyond surface level results to provide the nuanced interpretations and insights that can help facilitate client strategy and provide them with solutions that work.