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Academic Community and Civic Engagement: Learning opportunities and best practices

Standards and Practices

Questions and Answers

How is Community Engagement different from other types of high-impact practices or practice-based education?

Clinicals, internships, and student teaching provide students with experience to develop professional skills. These experiences typically occur during the junior or senior year after necessary coursework is completed, and often depend on the emerging expertise of the student. Community engagement can occur at any point of the student’s academic journey, and rather than focusing on skill development, community engagement activities prompt students to learn course content through their mutually-beneficial collaborations with community partners. Community engagement also has an explicit emphasis on civic responsibility so that students learn how to engage with complex social issues and how to be change agents in order to work to advance the common good.

Will Community Engagement take too much faculty time?

It does take time and effort to set up the logistics of a community-engaged course, to connect with a community partner to develop mutually-beneficial activities, and to work through the unanticipated challenges of campus-community partnerships. However, there are ways to minimize the impact of the time and efforts required in community-engaged courses by involving the expertise and support services available through the Center for the Common Good. It does get easier each time the course is taught as the structure is in place, assignments are developed, and the community-faculty partnership becomes stronger over time allowing for more efficient communications.

Does Community Engagement take too much class time?

The professor is still in charge of how class time is used. Students can reflect on the community engagement experience through journals, short reflection papers, and/or more formal papers (e.g., research papers that merge academic literature with the community engagement experience). However, research does indicate that devoting some time in class to discuss experiences strengthens student learning and satisfaction with the course. If the students' community experiences become known as "text" for the class, they will better integrate what they are learning as they make connections to course material and listen to themselves and their peers describe and analyze their varied experiences.

How do I evaluate the students' performance?

Many instructors do not change their evaluation techniques; rather, they assume that the community engagement activities  heighten student learning, and choose to only monitor the community engagement contribution in order to ensure that activities are being completed in a safe, ethical and professional manner. On the other hand, one might assign specific papers devoted to reflecting on the experience, and those could be graded for analysis, critical thinking, and other standards normally used.

Faculty who utilize Community Engagement often generate data documenting the impact that the pedagogy has on student learning that may be used to answer the question, "Why should I utilize Community Engagement as a pedagogical tool in my courses?” There are a number of outcomes that can be assessed, including the impact on student learning (e.g., academic skills, civic skills, life skills), the impact on the community (e.g., service delivery, client satisfaction), and the impact on the institution (e.g., faculty satisfaction, student learning). Since 2001, an annual International Conference on Service-Learning Research has provided opportunities for scholarly presentations on Service-Learning research.

How can involvement in Community Engagement strengthen my dossier and scholarly work?

Many professional academic associations include sessions on Community Engagement at conferences. Others, such as the American Association of Higher Education or the Association of American Colleges and Universities, hold annual conferences with opportunities to present papers on Community Engagement. Some accreditation criteria, such as that of the North Central Association Higher Education Commission, now include civic engagement. Community Engagement course involvement also can reflect one's professional research interests, especially when a strong partnership is created with a community agency. Documentation of student learning outcomes, course revisions overtime, and the impact of Community Engagement and community partnerships on scholarly pursuits are critical for promotion and tenure.

Adapted from Indiana Campus Compact

Faculty Learning Opportunities

Syllabi Content & Examples