A Community-Based Learning Approach for Changing Students' Beliefs about Poverty

Manya Catrice Whitaker, Britta Holum

Abstract


This mixed-methods case study examined the effect of a community-based learning course on students’ beliefs about poverty. Twenty-four undergraduate students enrolled in an Urban Education course designed to foster an understanding of the social challenges to teaching in urban environments. Students were exposed to multiple aspects of poverty through novels, documentaries, and radio podcasts, in addition to out of class experiences such as working at a local community center with low income populations. These course components were intended to enhance students’ understanding of what it means to live in poverty and increase their exposure to out-group members. After the course, students’ perception of their own civic responsibility was raised, their perception of impoverished people was more positive, and their endorsements of cultural and structural attributions for poverty were strengthened, while their belief in individualistic causes of poverty remained lower than their cultural and structural attributions. The importance of academic content that is personally relevant to students is discussed. 


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