National Study of Community Development Higher Education
Community development philosophies, epistemologies, and contexts vary widely among post-secondary education programs. Curricula and pedagogical practices have not been compared, contrasted, or debated in any systematic way, and there remains no agreed upon or clearly articulated foundation for community development education. This splintering of the field is compounded by its multidisciplinary nature - because community development is a process, it transcends diverse community contexts, an aspect often not realized when trained in a traditional discipline.
To better understand the current state of community development higher education, the Community Innovation Lab at the University of Kentucky in collaboration with the UC Davis Center for Regional Change (CRC) has documented both undergraduate and graduate community development programs in the United States. After completing an initial inventory of existing programs, we have compared three phases of research as follows:
Program Site Visits
Through this exploratory study, we aimed to identify foundational knowledge and skills to advance the impact of community development higher education programs, and subsequently strengthen national communication and knowledge about curriculum development, instructional delivery, and student inclusion in program design.
The first phase of this research was the distribution of a questionnaire to gather basic information about program structure and demographics. This baseline data analyzed and compiled the supplement to the existing inventory. The survey requested the names of up to five community development faculty that teach in the program. This was used to create a faculty sample for the second phase of research.
The second phase of research involved the distribution of an online survey to the community development faculty identified in phase one. The faculty survey was designed to gather information regarding program epistemologies, philosophies, structure, and educational practices. Surveys and basic descriptives have been analyzed and reported.
Program site visits
Once the first two stages of the overall study are complete, an intensive qualitative inquiry have been conducted to supplement the survey data. Members of the research team were able to immerse themselves in five selected institutions chosen for maximum programmatic variation. The team spent two to three days at each institution observing classroom instruction, interviewing faculty and students, and collecting instructional artifacts. The goal of this inquiry was to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the educational practices used in community development higher education. Content analysis, thematic coding, and case studies have been undertaken in the analysis of this phase.