Finding Our Footing With Our Communities




With Susan Bens

Debbi PushorSome time ago our Centre received a suggestion to tailor one of our increasingly known and appreciated Course Design Institutes specifically for those aiming to incorporate community-engaged learning. A team of us came together to begin that process and it’s fair to say we struggled to find our footing. After a few meetings, this led us to ask the question: “Do we really know what is needed by faculty with respect to community-engaged learning?” Our honest answer to ourselves was at best, a “maybe”. Since “maybe” isn’t good enough when planning a high-impact learning experience, we decided to take a few steps back in order to ask a group of about two hundred people interested in community-engagement to complete a survey about their learning needs, interests, and preferences for formats. We had a great response from two focus groups (attended by faculty who completed the survey) in which the learning needs of those new to the approach and those who were more experienced with community engaged learning were discussed.

Ultimately, talking with our focus group participants reminded our team of the importance of “beginning with the end in mind.” Had we proceeded with our planning prior to understanding the needs of the community and our faculty, we surely would have ended up with very different outcomes for our workshop series. In the focus groups we talked about the importance of getting to know, building, and sustaining relationships with community partners as the first step towards implementing a community engaged learning approach. We discussed the various degrees of comfort that instructors may feel, and some of the challenges they may face in building and in creating lasting relationships, particularly for instructors who are interested in developing a community-based approach to learning.

On Monday, January 27, the GMCTE will be hosting our first introductory workshop in the series, facilitated by Debbie Pushor, an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies at the College of Education. This workshop will focus on how faculty new to community engaged learning can begin to build and foster sustaining relationships with community partners.

To register for this workshop, please visit the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness Event Calendar. Future workshops will consider practical strategies for incorporating community engaged learning into your courses. Those who are on the Station 20 community-engaged scholars list will receive personal updates and invitations to register and/or participate in the series. To be added to this list, please contact Donald Bear at Station 20 West.

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