Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning
Highlights from the Community Partner Post-SL Experience Follow-up Survey
Academic Year 2009-2010
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 same process was used again to gather data about partnerships that took place during the 2009-2010 academic year. The survey was e-mailed to 100 community partners and 43 responded (43% response rate.) This executive summary underlines the implications of survey results.
Results from last year’s survey indicated that satisfaction with partnerships varied greatly across experiences. According to the 2008-2009 survey results, about 1/3 of community partners reported a high level of student preparedness, effective communication, and high quality work. That number has increased this year, with more then sixty percent of the survey respondents reporting a high level of student preparedness, effective communication, and high quality work! However, there are unfortunately still some partners who report challenges in these areas. This year’s opened-ended questions revealed that lack of professionalism and poor communication were major themes among displeased community partners. Despite these challenges, roughly than 78% of partners are interested in working with UVM again (this is similar to last year's percentage, which was nearly 80%). 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 are based on survey feedback from both the 08-09 and 09-10 academic years:
Based on the results of the survey, it is the assertion of this report that faculty should continue to take the following suggestions under consideration:
- 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):
- Talk with students about professional behavior including language and professional communication, time management and promptness, organization, and dress.
- 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, S-LTA’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, S-LTA’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.
Last modified September 14 2010 02:02 PM