Why A Book on Case Studies in Community Psychology Practice?*
The primary impetus behind this book is centered on my (Dr. Palmer’s) search for case studies to use in teaching graduate-level classes in community and social psychology. When I found books dedicated to case studies in social psychology, I was happy because I found it easier to move students through an understanding of theory to practice or praxis with good case studies depicting work in the real world. Yet, as a community psychologist my immediate thought when I found a social psychology case study book was, “Don’t we need a book like this in community psychology?” My response was, “Of course we do!” My mind flashed back to searching for case studies in textbooks, YouTube videos, articles, PBS videos and more that I could use in my community psychology classes. Most adequate case studies I did find came from sources that were not explicitly using a community psychology lens. There was not one book available within the community psychology discipline that was solely dedicated to offering comprehensive case studies depicting work conducted by academic practitioners, full-time practitioners, or even applied researchers. Yet, having these studies in one volume available online for free can be a critical tool in teaching and practicing our discipline. The current book answers this need and is written to provide students studying community psychology, teachers, and practitioners with a resource that meets their needs. The book can also serve to attract other community-minded individuals to our wonderful field.
What Is This Book About?
From a pedagogical lens, researchers concur that teaching and learning styles have changed, moving from lecture-based activities towards more student-centered or active learning techniques. Case studies help bridge the gap between theory and praxis, which is always a plus in teaching an applied discipline. The discipline of community psychology is ideal for using case study teaching because of the numerous practitioners who work in and with communities and members all over the world. This work is the quintessence of contextualizing theories in community psychology including settings, empowerment, sense of community, second-order change, and more. Furthermore, case studies portraying community psychology practice promotes active learning, which in turn can enhance learning outcomes by fostering critical thinking skills, an area that has been found to be seriously deficient in many contemporary classrooms (Tsui, 2002).
Moreover, case studies have also been linked with increased student motivation and interest in a subject (Mustoe & Croft, 1999). This book illustrates the benefits and challenges of community psychology-in-action and also shares lessons learned. These lessons can be useful to the reader so they can avoid making similar missteps, but just as importantly, to show the humanity of practitioners and members of the community. We are in a time where this book seeks to play a part in dismantling colonial ideologies, and whenever possible, remove the stigma of dehumanization bestowed upon too many groups. A number of the case studies include field research including participatory action research (PAR) a core technique in community psychology, as part of the initial steps to design and implement an initiative, intervention, or prevention strategy. Also included you will find an emphasis on cultural responsiveness and the importance of continually growing in our awareness and appreciation for how cultures impact settings. We believe that focusing on culturally responsive approaches will support effective partnering with community members to create more equitable spaces. An additional highlight of each chapter is a series of discussion questions that are specifically designed to spur critical thinking on the topic, as opposed to prescribing what readers should think.
This book investigates the practitioners’ thoughts and lenses carried with them throughout the projects, with an intentional and unique feature on matters of diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice. As community psychology practitioners our work is often focused on dismantling structural systems of inequality and oppression. Historically, a good deal of this important community-engaged work may not have found its way into other textbooks or academic journals. However, this book offers a unique opportunity to highlight the stories of colleagues doing valuable work and learn through reading their narratives and lived experiences. We are “changing the world, one community at a time.” Won’t you join us?
Geraldine (Geri) Palmer, Todd Rogers, Judah Viola, and Maronica Engel
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Mustoe, L. & Croft, A. (1999). Motivating engineering students by using modern case studies. International Journal of Engineering, 15, 496-476.