UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Careen Yarnal, associate professor of recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM) and co-chair of the Council on Engaged Scholarship, and graduate student Hsin-Yu Chen received a first-place prize for a poster focusing on engaged scholarship.
Yarnal and Chen received the award Oct. 7 during the 15th annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference, “Engaging for Change: Changing for Engagement,” hosted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their award was for “... integrating high-impact scholarship into a general education class.”
“Hsin-Yu and I were honored and thrilled to receive the award,” said Yarnal. “It is especially gratifying as our focus on scalability and low cost is unusual in the high-impact literature. Hsin-Yu deserves much credit. It is an honor to work with such a talented graduate student and frankly, I have learned a lot in my collaborations with her.”
Conference organizers sought posters that inform or advance research and the practice of engaged scholarship and community-university partnerships through means of research findings, innovative program design and partnership models, proven community or institutional impacts, effective curriculum or service-learning models, collaborative policy development and integration, or successful civic engagement practices.
Educational scholars have demonstrated that the way students use their time during college has a significant influence on their learning and development, Yarnal said. Research finds that high-impact, out-of-classroom experiences – such as internships, study abroad, undergraduate research, and service learning – provide distinct benefits for students. However, Yarnal said there are challenges with many types of high-impact practice, including the cost of the experience and enrollment limitations.
Yarnal and Chen used these shortcomings as an opportunity to demonstrate that it is possible to develop cost-effective and scalable mechanisms for providing students with valuable high-impact learning opportunities in a large general education course – in this case, RPTM 120: Leisure and Human Behavior.
To prove their point, Yarnal and Chen had students construct time diaries to help them understand their leisure or free time use as an important role in personal, social and academic development.
RPTM 120 is a three-credit general education course with an eclectic mix of 200 undergraduate students including declared and undeclared majors, and varied genders, ages and academic years. The time diary project consisted of a three-phase process during which students collected valid and reliable data on their activities for seven consecutive 24-hour periods, including data from both in and out of the classroom, as well as on and off campus; analyzed and interpreted the data; and harnessed the data to demonstrate mastery of class concepts in a capstone reflection paper.
“The time diary process encourages students to think about their life choices and time management, while deepening understanding of class concepts, and applying those concepts and theories to help them make sense of their time use,” Yarnal said. “Many students find that their views about how they live their lives are quite different from the realities of their time use. The project also helps them review personal goals, values, attitudes, and behaviors, and, for some, inspires them to undertake positive, meaningful activities, such as volunteering and civic engagement.”
Yarnal’s and Chen’s research suggests it is possible to integrate a meaningful out-of-classroom learning experience into the general education curriculum, thereby providing large number of students with high-impact experiences that might otherwise be unavailable.
More than 70 posters were accepted for this year’s contest. Judging focused on elements of effective content and design based on principles of excellence in engagement scholarship. Other evaluation criteria included: clear goals, adequate preparation, methodological rigor, significance, reflective critique and ethical behavior.