Preparing Students for Community Engagement

Students leading community members through exercise warm-up

Before the start of a service-learning project, ideally during the first week of class, students should be given an orientation to community-based learning, the project, and the organization with which they will be working. This does not have to be an elaborate or time-consuming, however, the following points should be included in the orientation:

  • The definition and purpose of community-based learning as a pedagogy
  • The purpose of their specific community-based learning project in relation to the class
  • The criteria upon which they will be graded and other project logistics
  • Expected behavior while working in/with the community
  • Brief history of the community group or organization
  • The needs of the people in the community which the organization serves\
  • The significance of this project to the organization
  • Issues of confidentiality
  • Culturally significant behaviors to be prepared for (for example, a class working with the local food shelf should be aware of the stereotypes they hold about “poor” people)
     
Training in the following would also be beneficial:
  • Cultural and language sensitivity
  • An understanding of an asset-based approach to community work
  • Acting as ambassadors of the university
  • Anti-oppression training