There are numerous resources that can offer assistance in developing an academic civic engagement course.
I want to integrate a civic engagement component into my course...what now?
Integrating service learning into a course is done on an individual basis. Recently the college has created a position to coordinate service-learning efforts and provide logistical resources, support and funding advice. In coordination with this position, ACT Staff can help connect courses with community partners and can even help identify community needs on which to base a project. Please contact us on the contact information page.
Where can I find information on other academic civic engagement courses?
The ACT Center has records of numerous course syllabi from a variety of disciplines from Carleton and schools across the nation. In addition, this web site features many example syllabi, as well as other colleges and university website links.
Who can I talk with about academic civic engagement courses at Carleton?
The most valuable resource would be the Academic Civic Engagement Coordinator, but it may also be helpful to talk with other Carleton faculty who have used service to enhance their classes. Faculty names can be found under the "Current Course Work" section of this website.
Where else can I find support on campus?
The Academic Civic Engagement coordinator is willing to support faculty in every way possible in any stage of the civic engagement process. In addition, the ACT Director and Academic Civic Engagement Student Coordinators are knowledgeable about community agencies and have collected a library of resources addressing the integration of theory and experiential learning. The Learning and Teaching Center is also prepared to support faculty in their endeavors to incorporate service into their courses.
Where can I find support off-campus?
There are many state and national organizations that offer ideas, information, and support for college faculty who are utilizing academic civic engagement. A list of groups and websites can be found on the "additional information" page.
One of the first steps to incorporating an academic civic engagement component into an academic course is to analyze course objectives. There needs to be a clear connection between the experiential component and the learning goals. Here are a few questions that may help in developing the service component.
What are the learning objectives for the class?
How might an academic civic engagement component enhance the achievements of these objectives?
In reviewing the course content, how can the community enrich the class? For example, a course focusing on the developmentally disabled might work with residents at Laura Baker School. These one-on-one relationships would allow students to apply and test their academic knowledge. Another example, a hydrology or chemistry course might work with the city to devising a plan to gauge the pollution of the Cannon River.
Which parts of the class would service enhance?
Service can be incorporated into the class as a project that occurs only once or as an ongoing project. The project can address a specific topic of the course or relate to the class as a whole.
How might I incorporate service into my course/syllabus?
Depending on the amount of time that the service will require, it may be necessary to alter the structure of assignments for the class. The best combination of academics and civic engagement is one that is mutually beneficial for students and for the community. Ideally the service may take the place of a few readings or lab classes. Thus, by balancing service with other required work for the class, students are less likely to view the service as an added burden.
What preparation will the students need in order for the service to be effective and beneficial?
Students need to understand and be prepared for the service placement. This includes being knowledgeable about the agency/organization with which they will be working (who they will be working with, what they will be doing…) in order to contribute positively to the community site.
How will I help students to "bridge" their service experiences with course content?
Reflection techniques such as journals, discussions, and thought papers are useful methods in relating service experiences to readings. The specific technique will be unique to the class.
A crucial aspect of academic civic engagement is the reciprocal and equal relationship between the community and the class, each partner learning from the other. Faculty members play a large role in setting the tone of the partnership.
What are the needs in the community?
One of the critical elements of effective academic civic engagement is meaningful service or community contact. The service and contact must be valuable and productive so that it fills a true need defined by the community.
Who will be the community partner?
After brainstorming about how the community could play a role in the course, the next step is to locate organizations that deal with issues covered in the course. First, explore connections with agencies and people that you already have a relationship with, or ask the ACE coordinator or ACT staff to recommend sites based on your course objectives.
How many sites will be partners?
Depending on the class size, it may not be feasible to place all students at the same site. It could be beneficial to have students working with a variety of organizations. When arranging the placements, consider if all the sites are comparable in their relevance to the course, time requirements, and distance from campus.
What are the expectations for the placement?
By being clear with the community contact about the learning goals of your class, you avoid a situation where the work the students are doing is not beneficial to them in the course.
What is the time frame for the service and community learning?
It is important to be honest with the agency about the time students will be committing to them. How often will student volunteer? Will it be the same time each week? How will the time be arranged-- be it by the student or by the agency? Make sure that the agency is aware of the duration of the class. This may constrain what students are able to do. For example, given the length of a Carleton term, an agency might be hesitant to place the students as one-on-one mentors with young children as the separation at the end would be too hard on the children.
How will the service by monitored?
After the initial establishment of the partnership, it is vital that you continue to keep in touch with the agency/site. By checking in with the agency, you give them an opportunity to let you know if there are any problems (students not showing up, not enough work for students, etc.) and you have the opportunity to share with them how the service is working in the classroom. This allows you to alter anything that is not going well in the beginning, instead of finding out too late.