Student Voices at UH Hilo: "Do I Belong Here?" A Case Study on Student Perception of Community-Engaged Teaching & How it Impacts their Sense of Belonging at UH Hilo

Mowrer, Julie
Alencastre, Makalapua
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Within the field of higher education, understanding the relationships between student engagement, sense of belonging, and teaching pedagogies are critical to our students’ success. In addition, building community-university partnerships that are reciprocal in nature and bring long-term benefits to the community and the university community can be significant. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, the Center for Community Engagement works to build capacity for community-engaged teaching designed to address the larger concepts of student engagement, sense of belonging and community relationships, within a local context of who our students are, where they come from and where they want to go. This qualitative case study seeks to gain student perspectives on community-engaged teaching as a pedagogical approach and how it impacted students’ engagement socially, cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. The results of the study can help faculty and administrators to better understand which high impact practices might best serve our students and what processes can be used to implement them. Approximately fifty students enrolled in one section of Kinesiology 202: Health Promotion at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, experienced community-engaged learning in a course project that partnered with Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute. As a class, the students learned both the social and scientific elements of youth vaping in Hawaiʻi from the community partner, and about health behavioral models, conducting a needs analysis and other content information from the professor. Over the course of a 16-week semester and working in teams, the students designed a variety of elements for an awareness campaign aimed to decrease youth vaping and presented them to the community partner for their use. Throughout their experience, students answered an anonymous online survey, completed a midterm reflection, and wrote a final reflection on their experience. These three data sets were used to determine students’ perspectives on their experience. The findings revealed that students’ found their experience with community-engaged learning to be beneficial in multiple ways: it contributed to the building of relationships with others, motivated them to work hard to accomplish challenging tasks, and resulted in feelings of satisfaction because their work had a purpose and meaning beyond a grade. These findings will benefit the Center for Community Engagement specifically and the university generally in making informed decisions surrounding the practices and policies of community-engaged teaching.
Education, community engagement, community-engaged teaching, higher education, sense of belonging, student engagement
125 pages
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