Whether you are planning a field trip, guest speaker, research, service-learning, or a public impact project, there are certain elements and factors to consider and incorporate. All community-based learning, from activity to long-term project, requires careful planning, connection to course objectives, collaboration with the community partner to identify need, intended impact, and responsibilities, as well as opportunities for quality reflection.
When planning for community-based learning, be sure to consider the following:
Think about all facets of impact. For example, if you are taking your students to a community space–what do they need to know about the space beforehand to be respectful of the people there and the space itself? When asking an individual to come speak with your class, is there a way for the class to thank the presenter?
Community Partners are Co-Creators
Ensure that the activity or shared work has mutually beneficial outcomes for your students and the community or organization. Especially when planning longer term projects or research in a community-based context, the outcomes of the work should have value beyond student learning, and the need and intended product should be identified in conversation with the community partner. Collaborate with the community partner–whether that is an organization, business, etc–as a co-creator of the course design, learning outcomes, and/or research goals.
Engage in Relationship
Engage based upon relationship. Build on existing university connections (there are many–be in touch with us in the Sabo Center to learn more!), or use your own connections. For the sake of students, vet the organizations or people they may be working with. Establish a trusting relationship with a community group or organization before expecting a student to contribute time and energy.
Be sure to establish clear parameters for students about the connection between the community-based learning and the course’s educational goals, objectives, and learning outcomes. Offer clear guidance about what is to be accomplished and learned, and emphasize the student’s responsibility and the reality of the impact their actions might have.
Prep students for what to expect and what is expected of them in the context of a community-based learning opportunity, whether that is a field trip or a long term project. Engage in reflection with students before the activity or project–what do they expect to learn? What do they want to learn? What are some things they think they know from the jump? Have students attend a scheduled community-based learning orientation with the Sabo Center, or coordinate with the Sabo Center to bring someone to do an orientation with your class.
Quality reflection is essential for effective community-based learning, and for all experiential learning. Build in opportunities for structured and varied forms of reflection, and communicate clearly about how this reflection will be evaluated.
Want guidance for how to get started? Contact Director of Community Engagement Mary Laurel True (firstname.lastname@example.org).