So you’re considering incorporating a community engaged approach into your course? Excellent! Here’s a few ideas for how to get started:
Start with the Syllabus.
As you develop your course objectives, consider which ones could be meaningfully met with outside-the-classroom experiences. In this stage, it may be helpful to brainstorm and make lists of all possibilities. Try to ignore the logistic concerns at this stage of the game: just allow yourself to vision and dream regarding the ways course objectives could be met and course content could be better understood.
Develop meaningful experiences
While having an experience in a soup kitchen or a school or local orchard project can be meaningful and rewarding in itself, for the benefit of the course objectives, consider how you will ask the students to reflect on this experience. Will this be through class discussions? Are you hoping they will write about them? What material will you use beforehand to contextualize the experience, and what material will you use afterwards? All of this forethought goes a long way towards maximizing outside of the classroom times.
Course assignments that have been used in past community engagement courses: [pdfs]
Choosing a community partner
See Community Partnerships [link]
Community engagement hours: the fine balance
Once you’ve identified your partner and the potential times for community engagement, you’ll need to consider how much time you are asking of your students. Will this be during class hours or outside of class hours? Will you accompany them, or are they expected to make initial contact? What is the age and maturity of your students? What do I hope the time at that site will accomplish? These are all important questions to ask as you consider how much time they will spend outside of the classroom.
It is highly suggested that these expectations be articulated from the first day of class, and that the importance of these community hours is emphasized. Of course, these hours could be made optional; but past experience indicates that there will be very low success if the hours are optional. Outlining your expectations from the start gives students time to consider if they can commit to this, and if not, they may need to find another course. Having students sign a commitment – with expectations in ink – has been one successful way of doing this.