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Community Teaching

Community Teaching

The University of Minnesota’s Community Service-Learning Center has excerpted Jeffrey Howard’s ten principles, which may serve as valuable guidelines for planning high-impact community-engaged courses and projects. [9]

Other important considerations for faculty are suggested by the scholarship on community-engaged teaching in addition to these principles. These come from a variety of sources: [10]

Links to Academic Content Project-Content. The most synergy of community engagement and learning experiences is associated with the most thorough integration of project and academic content. This implies that learning objectives and community engagement objectives should be closely aligned. Content should inform students about various aspects of their community project, and community engagement should provide opportunities for students to learn course content at deeper levels. Student learning and community impact may be limited without this integration.

Participation in Community Partnerships. Fundamentally, community service projects should be carried out in ways that allow students to impact the community significantly. This means that the service component should contribute to a public good as determined by open and thoughtful collaboration between faculty and community partners.

Reciprocity. Reciprocity implies that everyone involved in a project – students, faculty, and community members – serves as both a teacher and a learner and that everyone views one another as equal colleagues. [11] This ensures effective communication and planning throughout the project, maximizes active learning and mutual impact, and strengthens community voice.

Community Speak. Community voice impacts student cultural understanding in a community-based project and can shape their experiential and ethical learning. [12] Community members should be involved in every stage of the project and course, whenever possible, for this learning to occur. Community involvement should be encouraged and supported in project planning, student orientation, guest lectures, site visits, class discussions, progress reports, final presentations, and project evaluation. This allows for deeper cultural understanding and ethical development and ensures stronger community partnerships and more impactful projects.

Diversity education. Students benefit from exposure to diversity, particularly in terms of personal outcomes such as identity development and cultural understanding. Again, community involvement is essential at all project stages to ensure this learning occurs.

Dissemination to the general public. To ensure community engagement and impact, the project results should be shared with the partner, if not with a larger public such as the campus and public communities.
The learning potential of community projects is limited unless students have opportunities to reflect on their community work in the context of course content. There should be some mechanism to encourage students to connect their community service to course content and to reflect on why community service is important. The following are some reflection exercises or assignments that are especially beneficial in community-based projects: [13]

Students can use personal journals to express their thoughts and feelings about the community experience throughout the semester. Structured journals guide students in connecting personal learning to course content. To learn more about each journal type, click on its name.

Three-part Journal Highlighted Journal Critical Incident Journal
Journal Dialogue Key-entry Journal Dialogue Journal
Students are asked to consider their community experience within the context of the course content in directed writing. The instructor selects a section from the textbook or class readings (for example, quotes, statistics, key concepts) and structures a question for students to answer in 1-2 pages. A list of directed writings can be provided at the start of the semester.
Community Teaching

In experiential research papers, students are asked to identify an underlying social issue they have encountered at the community site. Students then research the social issue. Students make recommendations to the agency for future action based on their experience and library research. Semester work can be completed by presenting the experiential research paper in class.

Reflection with the instructor and peers involved in community projects can be facilitated through online discussion. Students can create weekly summaries and identify critical incidents at the community site. Instructors can post questions for students to consider and topics for directed writing assignments. A log of the e-mail discussions can be printed and distributed to the group as data about the community experience’s learning.

Ethical case studies allow students to analyze a situation and practice making ethical decisions as they choose a course of action. Students write a case study about an ethical quandary they encountered at the community site, including a description of the context, the people involved, and the controversy or event that caused the ethical quandary. Students discuss the situation and possible responses after reading case studies in class.

Community engagement portfolios include evidence of completed processes and products and ask students to evaluate their work about the course’s learning objectives. Portfolios may include the following elements: a community engagement contract, a weekly log, a personal journal, an impact statement, directed writings, a photo essay, and products created during the community experience (e.g., agency brochures, lesson plans, advocacy letters). Students write an evaluation essay assessing how well they met the course’s learning and community objectives.

Personal narratives are based on journal entries written regularly throughout the semester. Students write a fictional story about themselves as course participants. This activity establishes a context for reflection throughout the semester, emphasising an innovative finished product. Personal narratives allow students to describe their personal growth as learners.

Exit cards are brief reflections on note cards that are turned in at the end of each class period. Students are asked to reflect on disciplinary content covered in class and explain how it relates to their community involvement. Instructors can read exit cards to gain a better understanding of student experiences. Instructors may want to summarize key points and communicate these to students in the following class.

Class presentations could be monthly three-minute updates or thirty-minute updates during the final two class periods in which students present their final analysis of community activities and make recommendations to the agency for additional programming. Final presentations can be attended by agency personnel.

A weekly log is a simple list of the activities completed at the community site each week. This is a method of monitoring work and providing students with an overview of their contributions throughout the semester.

Receiving constructive feedback from professors or community partners influences students’ self-reported learning, use of course skills, and commitment to community service.

Formative evaluation is essential for project completion and quality learning because it assesses student progress toward learning and community goals. It can also assist the faculty or community partner in addressing any issues that may arise during the semester before they harm projects. This can be accomplished through regular, albeit brief, progress reports structured into the course writing.

Summative Evaluation: End-of-course evaluations help ensure the next community project’s success as a learning and community-building experience. How successful were the project for the agency, the clients, and the students? These questions are typically not included in end-of-semester student evaluations and should therefore be the focus of anonymous surveys and class discussions organized by faculty. Similarly, community partner project evaluations can help improve future partnerships, project designs, and campus-community relations.
community teaching

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