Guiding Principles and Practices
This section describes how we establish relationships within this teaching triangle composed of instructor, students, and community partner.
“We showed up on time but there was nobody to greet us ~ we weren’t expected!”—typical remark reflecting communication challenges
Cultivating Community Partners
First, we dedicate time in the prior term creating partnerships with community organizations, based upon discerning their authentic needs for student assistance. This groundwork laid by the instructor also reflects skilled dialogue. Rather than focusing on simply getting any partner for the course, the instructor cultivates genuine curiosity about the potential partners’ needs and assesses whether students can realistically help with an educational presentation.
Partnerships often begin with an initial phone call or email from the instructor, requesting a time to meet and discuss potential collaboration. If the community agency agrees, the instructor will go to the community site and seek to understand the mission and needs of the community organization, as well as any constraints (e.g., scheduling) that are likely to become challenges. The instructor brings along a copy of the course syllabus and schedule, and a contract to establish supervisory responsibility
Fig. 11.1 Course Objectives
with the community partner, and to clarify expectations. If the possibility of students meeting an existing need is clear, and all terms are agreeable, the community partner is invited to attend a class meeting during the second week of the upcoming term to assist in student team formation.
A word of caution—the type of partnership developed with the community partner may be detrimental to the quality of a student’s learning experiences. In some cases, the community partner may not understand the role of the student as it relates to their organization. The student may be assigned duties by the community partners that do not foster trusting relationships with the target population. These duties (e.g., sorting clothes in a closet), in turn, may hamper the student’s ability to develop and present a program well received by the target population. In other partnerships, the community partner may be experiencing such high levels of turnover that it is difficult for students to maintain a working relationship with those responsible for scheduling and monitoring their visits to the facility. In either of these situations, it is difficult for students to develop the relationships necessary for effective implementation of programs.