Introducing Civic Engagement in the Curriculum at GMIT

Gachon, C. (2012) Introducing Civic Engagement in the Curriculum at GMIT. In: AISHE-Conference 2012: Responding to Change: Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30th & 31st August 2012, Dublin City University, Ireland..


In 2010, GMIT introduced a five credit ‘service learning’ module entitled ‘Civic Engagement’. The module is divided in two parts, a set of generic workshops where students are mixed together and a project part which is discipline specific. Being asked to run this module in the Mechanical Engineering department, the author felt that the success of the module would depend on proper preparation and implementation. The aim of this work was to investigate the factors of success and use them to plan out the possible integration of the module in the curriculum. A literature review on institutionalisation of ‘service learning’ highlighted two important factors to be investigated. Firstly, ‘service learning’ had to be in line with the mission and strategic plan of the institute. Further investigation showed that ‘Civic engagement’ is not present in GMIT’s the mission but appears in the strategic plan and has been supported by management. Secondly, the academic staff had to accept and support the project. Taking into account the additional workload of two hours or so-called Flex-up, the author, as Head of Department, would rely entirely on lecturers’ good will when introducing the ‘civic engagement’ module. She therefore spoke to each individual lecturer to explain the concept of ‘civic engagement’ and how it could benefit our students. They were then asked to answer a questionnaire designed using the findings of the literature review. In general, lecturers were interested in the project and most of them were willing to help. The questionnaire was also used to get their opinion on the way to integrate the module in the curriculum. In parallel, the author interviewed another Head of Department, a lecturer and some students already involved in the module. The answers were then analysed and a plan for implementation is presented in this paper.

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