American Sociological Association

Pivot Points: Direct Measures of the Content and Process of Community-based Learning

This research is an initial investigation into the ways community-based learning increase the cognitive skills central to the exercise of the sociological imagination. In addition to identifying a means to reveal that learning had occurred, we looked for evidence that the students were mastering sociological content, especially the concepts and habits of the sociological imagination. Using a grounded theory approach, a student/faculty research team conducted a content analysis of 160 field notes from 34 undergraduate participant-observers enrolled in an academically grounded, field-based sociology course. The analysis revealed patterns of "pivot points" where students’ understanding is characterized by a noticeable jump rather than as incremental or gradual change in knowledge acquisition. These pivot points are fundamental, categorical shifts in understanding connecting particular observations to generalized theories or constructs.


Wickersham, C., Westerberg, C., Jones, K., Cress, M.





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