Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning
Highlights from the Community Partner Post-SL Experience Follow-up Survey
Academic Year 2008/2009
Prepared by Kimberly DePasquale
In fall 2008 a survey was created to gather information about how community partners experience service-learning partnerships with UVM courses. Faculty members who taught service-learning classes were asked to provide names and contact information for each community organization they partnered with during the 2008/2009 academic year. The survey was administered via e-mail to these contacts in two batches – once after fall courses, and once after spring courses. The survey was e-mailed to 124 community partners and 42 responded (roughly 34% response rate.) This executive summary underlines the implications of the survey results.
The most salient message from this survey is that satisfaction with partnerships varies greatly across experiences. While some community partners report a high level of student preparedness, effective communication, and high quality work (about 1/3 of respondents in each question) – there are unfortunately many partners who report challenges in these areas. Despite these challenges, more than 80% of partners are interested in working with UVM again. For the benefit of these partners, and in appreciation of their work with us, we think it is essential that we work to improve their next experience. The following recommendations were culled from survey feedback, and will be shared widely with faculty members and teaching assistants in service-learning courses.
Based on the results of the survey, it is the assertion of this report that faculty should consider the following suggestions:
Select appropriate project(s):
- Assess students’ skill level and abilities and work to find projects that are appropriately matched; don’t take on a project unless you feel confident that students will be able to take on the challenge successfully; Think critically about whether a project that sounds great to you, the faculty member, is appropriate and engaging for the students in your class.
Make sure students are prepared to work on the chosen project(s):
- Emphasize effective communication, project management, and group dynamics skills prior to the start of the service-learning project or as part of a developmental curriculum leading up to a service learning class;
- Make sure students have a basic understanding about the organization they will work with (e.g. mission statement, services they provide, number of employees, etc.);
- Use a Memorandum of Understanding to explicitly outline roles and responsibilities for all involved parties (CUPS, community partners, students, TA’s, and faculty) as well as expectations of students’ work prior to the start of the service-learning project
Stay involved and connected throughout the course of the project:
- Provide the community partner with a copy of the course syllabus prior to the start of the project;
- Plan for and maintain open communication with all involved parties (CUPS, community partners, students, TA’s, and faculty) to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Hold students accountable for the work they do:
- Make sure students have a clear understanding of how their work will impact the organization they are working with;
- Use meaningful interim project management tools to hold students accountable throughout a project’s lifespan, not just at the end;
- Involve community partners in the evaluation process in a concrete way and make this fact clear to students.
To download the full report, click here.
Last modified August 28 2009 11:10 AM