Community Problem Solving Seminars (COMPS)

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Community Problem Solving Seminars are yet another way in which service learning can be incorporated into the economics curriculum. This specific technique is considerably more intensive and therefore is more appropriate for a summer term course. The University of Richmond offers a course based on this technique in which students are required to attend a seminar class where the course material is centered around a specific problem in the community. Students are then required to commit time to a organization in the community in order to attempt to solve the issue at hand.

Example: During the seminar portion, students could be assigned literature concerning welfare reform policies. Then, these students would be assigned to dedicate time to a local welfare office where they may see how the welfare reform policies are applied and determine the impact of these policies on those receiving welfare.

How to implement

1. Choose a relatively broad topic, such as welfare reform, for which all seminar material will be centered on.

2. Find a community organization which correlates to the course content of the seminar.

3. Assign students to work in small groups (two, three, ect. dependent on seminar size). for both in class content as well as for community activities.

4. As a class, students should dedicate up to 30 hours a week to the community organization.

5. Students should be using a journal in which to document their views in how the seminar content is applied in the community organization and to document individual/group ideas for possible solutions to issues in the organization.

6. Students entire grades will be based upon the community service aspect of the seminar. Typically, students will be assessed through a presentation they make to the board of directors of the organization. The presentation should include an analysis of the relevancy of the organizations problem, students observations and material which helped them create a solution, and finally a proposed solution to reduce or eliminate the organizations problem.


McGoldrick, KimMarie, and Andrea L. Ziegert. Putting the Invisible Hand to Work: Concepts and Models for Service Learning in Economics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2002. Print.