Service-Learning: Reconciling Research and Teaching, Tackling Capacious Issues

Robert W. Franco – Kapiolani Community College


In this paper, I will suggest that a robust program in academically-based service learning is a vital linking strategy to connect scholarship, learning in community colleges, educational success for students under-represented in higher education, and the improvement of the human condition. Service-learning empowers students, graduates, and communities to tackle tough problems and brings relevance and urgency to teaching while advancing research and discovery. I will argue that service-learning has particular relevance within the culture of community colleges and that it provides a first and second year community-based, engaged research foundation for further undergraduate research in numerous scientific disciplines including biology, microbiology, chemistry, ecology, physiology, engineering, and technology. – From the introduction

Topics of Interest to the SENCER Community

Brief history of evolution of community colleges from their origins as ‘junior colleges’ in the early 1900s.

  • Mission change/relationship to four-year colleges and universities.
  • Role in workforce development and scholarship.
  • Provides statistics on current community college student population, faculty, degrees awarded.

Discusses institutional civic engagement and recognizes special challenges community college faculty face.

  • Details 13 indicators of engagement at community colleges that impact ability of faculty to engage with students and communities.
  • Identifies best practices in supporting faculty engagement.
  • Provides examples of engagement and faculty development support at diverse, specific community colleges.

Addresses integrating faculty research at community colleges and into courses; also offering undergraduate research opportunities for students.

Academically-based service-learning as a strategy to connect scholarship, learning, and success for students.

  • Success in academic transfer, careers, and as citizens.
  • Service-learning is explicitly grounded in teaching and learning at engaged community colleges.

Case study example of how Kapiolani Community College adopted the SENCER approach with service-learning and applied it to numerous courses and disciplines, specifically for first-year students.

  • Issues used in courses: health promotion and disease prevention, health disparities in minority populations, sleep and brain function, ecological deterioration, genetic modification of foods.
  • Courses that integrate service-learning and connect first and second-year curricula: botany, chemistry, ecology, and microbiology.
  • Service-learning is used by Kapiolani as a way to address low literacy rates, low math and science proficiency, and low high school graduation rates.

Full Report

Service-Learning: Reconciling Research and Teaching, Tackling Capacious Issues

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About the Author

Bob Franco Robert W. Franco
Kapiolani Community College

Dr. Robert Franco is a recognized expert on contemporary Samoan, Polynesian, and Pacific Islander demographic, ecological, health, and cultural issues. He has published scholarly research on contemporary Samoan political and cultural change, traditional Hawaiian water management systems, and sociocultural factors affecting pelagic fisheries in Polynesia and Micronesia. He currently serves as the College’s accreditation liaison to the ACCJC/WASC, Association of American Colleges and Universities, American Council on Education, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, Carnegie Foundation, and Campus Compact where he serves as Senior Faculty Fellow for Community Colleges. He conducts training, technical assistance and research dissemination in five states per year (35 states total) and provides community college, university, and conference audiences with research-based training designed to improve retention, degree completion, and transfer rates through service-learning, community-based research, and authentic partnerships. His current national research and training focuses on service-learning and reducing the minority academic achievement gap, and strengthening the liberal arts, workforce development and civic missions of community colleges. In 2008, he was selected a NSF-SENCER Leadership Fellow, and advisor to SENCER Center for Innovation (SCI) -Western Region. He also is the College’s EPSCoR Coordinator and LSAMP Co-PI.