Engagement on Display: Learning, Teaching, & Researching in “Real Life”

photo of student working beside open window overlooking an open courtyard in a foreign land

In an effort to focus more attention on engaged learning opportunities at Michigan, several librarians and library staff recently curated an exhibit called Learning in “Real Life”: Stories of Impact Through Engagement, which showcases thirteen courses and projects along a spectrum of engagement that emphasize practice and feature experiential, action-based learning, often in authentic settings and with real-world partners and parameters. Two projects in particular feature collaborations between faculty and librarians:  “Community Health Nursing: Vision Through a Global Lens” and “Building a Low-Cost Linear Book Scanner.”

The exhibit both embraces and challenges the concept of what it means to learn and teach in “real life,” asking participants to consider the impact they made on others and the impact these projects had on them—as learners, teachers, scholars, researchers, artists, and human beings. From weaving in Peru to building a low-cost book scanner in the engineering classroom to combating plant blindness through creative expression, these projects enable students to put theory into practice, integrate their learning across contexts, take greater ownership over their education, and create positive social change in very real ways.

Five engaged learning goals frame the exhibit and connect the thirteen individual projects:   innovative, collaborative, responsible, intercultural, and creative. Vetted by both internal and external stakeholders and based heavily on the synthesis report from the 2014 Provost Task Teams on Engaged Learning and Digital Instruction, these fives learning goals articulate the qualities we want our graduates to embody as they approach 21st century problems, and they move us toward shared language around the outcomes of the diverse opportunities in which our students engage. Simultaneously, we can also embody these qualities as 21st century faculty, staff, librarians, and campus partners and reflect them in our approaches to teaching, facilitation, mentorship, partnerships, and research.

Innovative, Collaborative, Responsible, Intercultural, Cultural

Several events accompanied the exhibit, including a keynote by Timothy Eatman, Co-Director of Imagining America; a panel of publicly engaged scholars including Barbara Israel, Larry Gant, and Kathleen Sienko; and a Peruvian weaving demonstration by Tatiana Calixto. Most events were recorded and are available to stream online.

Learning in “Real Life”: Stories of Impact Through Engagement was curated by Luciana Aenasoaie, Carrie Luke, Amanda Peters, and Jamie VanderBroek. The exhibit was on display in the Hatcher Library Gallery from February 9 through April 14, and projects from the exhibit were featured on the Shapiro Library lobby digital screens from April 6-10. You can also access enriching materials such as related assignments, syllabi, reflection prompts, and more in the exhibit’s digital companion.