Adult Development Course Rewards Students with Valuable Life Lessons
Stephanie Wilsey, an assistant
professor in Carlow University’s Department of Psychology and Counseling,
brought a fresh take to teach the effects of aging to her Adult Development class.
After years of the traditional
approach to the topic, Wilsey decided to make her Adult Development incorporate
experiential teaching, and thus, satisfy Carlow undergraduates’
This requirement can often be
one of the most difficult for Carlow students, but its rewards outweigh the
extra time that is needed to complete a service-learning course.
“Most instructors and students,
I believe, would agree that service-learning is more demanding,” Wilsey said. “It can potentially, however, be extremely
rewarding, and experiential learning methods such as service-learning can teach
lessons that really can't be taught well any other way.”
Along with three students
chosen because of their leadership during the project, Wilsey wrote a
soon-to-be-published journal article on the topic.
“Our research is being
published in volume 41 of the Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the
Community, a peer-reviewed journal, addressing how service-learning may be a
particularly powerful tool in combating prejudice,” Wilsey said.
Wilsey’s course centered on
experiential teaching, which is having students interact with the subjects they
are learning about.
In her first semester teaching
this course in this manner, Wilsey paired her 12 students up with the Women of
West Oakland to plan a tea-party luncheon and the Sisters of Mercy to plan a
the proximity, as well as the Women of West Oakland’s status as a community
partner to the university, this was the first interaction the female elders had
with students from the university,” Wilsey wrote in her journal article.
students couldn’t experience what the elderly group went through first hand,
talking with them about their experiences was the next-best approach.
talked about their past, what they accomplished,” said an interviewed student
in the journal article. “A lot of the
stuff we talked about it in class, they did.”
wasn’t just the interviews that showed Wilsey’s experiential teaching as a
success. The surveys also showed that
students felt the project was valuable to the course, increased interest in the
course, increased understanding of the course, and helped students learn more
than in a typical course.
“Based on study results, we
learned that students felt that the service was very beneficial to their
learning,” Wilsey said. “Being around
vibrant and interesting older adults really dispelled myths and misconceptions
that they had held about the elderly that their textbook did little to address.”
With all of the success the
course has, Wilsey now needs to find more community partners. Lucky for her, the class’s broad range allows
her to look for them in a variety of age groups.
One of the few downsides to
this new approach to teaching adult development is that the course must remain
small in order to maintain an ideal learning environment.
“Having the entire class
working collaboratively on one project would have been difficult with a much
larger group,” Wilsey said. “On the
other hand, having a smaller group meant that students had to do their parts to
pull off the project. Social loafing by
more than a few would have been disastrous.”