Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Research Design and Literature Review


Research Design

In Module 2 of my Scalar project, I will be focusing on the following research questions that will be guiding my action research:
1. How can Harvard University improve its educational outreach to the high school and middle school students from surrounding local communities, specifically by bringing them on campus to expose them to the college life directly? (Hint: the solution is Splash!)
2. Why should there be a Splash! program at Harvard? Why does it matter to the various stakeholders (the university as a community partner- "good neighbor", the college students as teachers, and high school and middle school students as learners)?
3. What are some of the challenges of starting a program like Splash! at Harvard?
4. How would a Splash! program be structured at Harvard?


I have conducted a field visit to Yale University to observe their Splash program. I interviewed several members of the student administration team, from the presidents of the overarching Splash student organization to alumni of the Splash organization to the newer student administrators who just joined a semester ago. I gathered lots of information about how the program is structured, how teachers are trained, how the program is run the day of the event, and the various logistical components to be considered. I also obtained a short statement from one of the administrators about how she got involved in Splash because she participated in it all throughout high school, which led her to consider applying to Yale (and ultimately got in). In terms of media, I have photographs and videos of the program set-up, some of the classes, and the lunch set-up. I also obtained some email templates that they use to recruit teacher volunteers from Yale students, as well as the ones they use to reach out to local schools in the community. The presidents will be sharing their Google Drive with the various timelines, spreadsheets, and templates with me shortly. These materials will be very helpful when I am writing an action blueprint for how this can be implemented at Harvard.


Review of Literature

    In my review of literature for my action blueprint research, I will be investigating how educational outreach programs like Splash affect both college students and the high school/middle school students they teach. I first looked at an article called “Reciprocal Exchange: Understand the Community Partner Perspective in Higher Education Service-Learning,” where the author talked about the idea of “reciprocity” in service learning, which is often overlooked and where there has been little scholarship in the past. In this piece, she defines reciprocity using the scholarship of Henry and Breyfogle. The traditional definition is when two or more parties “come together to contribute their respective resources to some commonly defined interests” (Petri, p. 39). However, she emphasizes the importance of an alternative definition that builds upon the traditional one, in which the program also changes the relationships between those who are serving and those who are served. It highlights the idea that through the service-learning program, there is a greater “individual understanding of various life experiences and the alteration of rigid social systems over time” (Petri, p. 39). In the case of Splash, this would mean that by engaging college students and high school/middle school students in this program, both parties would be transformed by the interaction in various ways. These individual transformations may include the college student advancing in his self-formation by reflecting on what he is passionate about while making his lesson plans, or developing a sense of leadership in managing and teaching a class of eager high school students. In return, the students from the local communities may transform their perspectives on the world by learning topics that they have never encountered before in their normal school curriculum and by having the opportunity to form personal relationships with college students, which establishes a greater sense that higher education is attainable for themselves in the future. These interactions facilitated by the program would benefit both parties, following this concept of “reciprocity” between community partners and higher education institutions.

    Another article that I reviewed called “Linking Community and Classroom in Higher Education: Service-Learning and Student Empowerment” looked at the impact of community partnership programs on college student participants. Why is there a need for programs that connect college students to the communities in which the universities are embedded? While the benefits for the students of the surrounding communities are well-documented by the existing literature (i.e. benefits to school retention rates, higher levels of educational attainment, etc.), the benefits for those who serve are investigated in this article. The main idea is that these programs are critical in the self-formation and sense of belonging and purpose in college students. These programs serve as “pedagogical tools that...develop personal autonomy through real world experiences...promote cooperative skills...helps them become active members of the community and enhances their ability to be self-assured, to assume new responsibilities, and to influence individuals’ growth” (Munter, p. 154). Essentially, these programs are important not only for the local communities in need that they serve, but also for those who are serving. They are highly important in helping college students realize their long-term purpose and potential in college and beyond. This background information provided in the existing literature helps inform how a program like Splash should be structured to ensure that there is reciprocity between the two main involved parties, emphasizing that college students who serve as teachers have as much to gain from these experiences as students from the surrounding communities do.

  These concepts from the literature review inform much of my thinking when I am explaining the necessity of the Splash program to school administrators. Splash is a program that demonstrated reciprocity to a higher extent than normal community service organizations. Its mission statement shows that there are equal benefits for both teachers and students who participate in Splash. The mission is to give college students the rare opportunity to teach topics that they are passionate about to high school students who are then exposed to diverse topics that they would never encounter in a traditional curriculum. College students are able to learn leadership, management, and public speaking skills from developing their own curriculum, managing a classroom, and teaching an hour-long class about something that they are knowledgeable about. It will allow them explore a possible career related to teaching or teach about something niche they love that they may not be able to share in other settings. It allows them to express their unique intellectual interests and feel a sense of ownership over their class, since they design it from start to finish. On the other hand, high school students also receive equal benefits. They get to pick anything to learn from a diverse pool of topics and broaden their intellectual interests. This program enriches their education beyond regular school subjects. It also gives them an opportunity to learn in a college setting, forming relationships with their teachers, and in the process, start to see themselves attending a higher education institution like this one in the future. Both sides benefit from this partnership through Splash. Thus, since reciprocity is at the core of Splash's mission, it is a necessary and highly impactful program that should be established at Harvard.



Works Cited

Munter, J. (2002). Linking Community and Classroom in Higher Education:

Service-Learning and Student Empowerment. Journal Of Nonprofit and Public

Sector Marketing.

Petri, A. N. (2012). Reciprocal Exchange: Understanding the Community Partner

Perspective in Higher Education Service-Learning. University of Missouri-Kansas





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