Center for Community Engagement

San Diego: Service Learning: A Proven Method in Math & Science Education

San Diego

Professor Cynthia Darché Park at San Diego State University is passionate about increasing students' interest and achievement in the sciences and mathematics. What started as one course more than 20 years ago has become multiple service-learning course offerings for students pursuing degrees in Education. University students serve as math and science tutors in both in-class and after school programs for middle and high school students from low-income families who attend underperforming schools. Dr. Park's course, Teacher Education 362 (TE 362), provides structured activities for future teachers to learn effective teaching methods, requires reflective analysis of experiences and linkage to broader issues, and also meets the educational needs of local middle and high school students.

The class incorporates multi-media presentations of teaching situations that model methods for promoting critical thinking skills and assessment of student progress. Outside of the classroom, students participate in a required one-day tutor training retreat that orients them to the service aspect of the course. The retreat emphasizes the professional expectations and responsibilities of working in schools including ethical standards of behavior, their responsibility as positive role models, legal reporting requirements in cases of reported child abuse, and developing a positive relationship with personnel at the school sites. Tools for assessment and accountability of the field experience are clearly presented and representatives of the school-sites participate as well.

The course requirements ask students to write three formal reflective analyses as blogs and one as a final paper. Student responses to blogs, class discussions and their final reflective paper for the course show heightened awareness of the broader problems students, faculty, and administration face in solving learning and achievement problems in neighborhoods fraught by poverty and the prevalence of unhealthy life practices such as childhood obesity, drug addiction, and crime.

Last Spring, the TE 362 class worked with students in the Faculty-Student-Mentor program to support STEM Squared Day which hosted middle and high school students at an all-day series of hands-on workshops in mathematics and sciences as well as a career fair staffed by representatives from businesses and other entities that hire students trained in the sciences and mathematics.*

Professor Park sees the impact the courses have had over the years as she reads evaluations such as "I have learned so much in this course, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to other students," and "Anyone thinking about going into teaching should definitely take this course." After completing the course, some students have also found that teaching is not right for them. However, the various experiences they have, such as their tutor placement, introduces them to other professions within the education field such as counseling or school psychology.

*The project was a partnership of the Pathways Office, the service-learning arm of the Center for Research in Math & Science Education; SDSU's Division of Undergraduate Studies, SDSU's Career Services and the President's Leadership Fund. School Districts participating in GEAR UP and SDSU TRiO Programs also supported the activity.

Read more about service learning at San Diego State.

View campus service-learning projects promoting future careers in STEM:
CSU East Bay
CSU East Bay

Science-credential candidates at CSU East Bay are cultivating ways to bring service learning into their high school science classrooms. After learning about service learning and observing several Math/Science Nucleus projects, Dr. David Stronck's fall 2011 credential candidates were inspired to create a service-learning project for their biology and chemistry students.

CSU Monterey Bay
CSU Monterey Bay

Led by Dr. Bude Su, a team of alumni and students in the School of Information Technology and Communication Design (ITCD) at CSU Monterey Bay assisted Natividad Medical Center in cutting time and costs through real-world application of their studies. The Medical Center's training module, in need of restructure, would have taken several months and cost more than $1 million to train 700 nurses and physician assistants in a new electronic patient charting system.

CSU Sacramento
CSU Sacramento

CSU Sacramento biology students are discovering the art of teaching in Dr. Kelly McDonald's BIO195T service-learning course. The course, designed for students interested in pursuing a career in teaching science to K-12 students pairs students with experienced science teachers from diverse middle schools and high schools throughout Sacramento County.

CSU San Bernardino
CSU San Bernardino

Thanks to a Title V grant awarded in 2007, CSU San Bernardino's nationally recognized CoyoteCareers program is preparing diverse STEM students for California's workforce. CoyoteCareers is a unique cross-divisional collaboration that connects and provides students with tutoring in hard-to-pass gatekeeper courses, paid service-learning internship experiences, career development counseling, and alumni mentoring and networking.

San Diego State University
San Diego State University

Professor Cynthia Darché Park at San Diego State University is passionate about increasing students' interest and achievement in the sciences and mathematics. What started as one course more than 20 years ago has become multiple service-learning course offerings for students pursuing degrees in education.