Collaborating with Community Agencies
Judy K. Bentley, Foundations and Social Advocacy Department
Fran Pizzola, Community Education Coordinator for Access to Independence,Faculty/Agency collaboration helps set the stage for intensified and rigorous student learning on academic, civic engagement, and personal values dimensions.
I. Communication is Key
A. With agency supervisors
- Begin face-to-face exploratory and planning discussions with supervisors at least a few months in advance of the semester in which the course will run. Remember that an agency’s schedule does not revolve around the academic year.
- Before agreeing to collaborate, let agency supervisors know the goals and objectives of your course and, in particular, the service-learning aspect of your course (such as an appreciation for diversity); share syllabus, major projects, and prompts for students’ reflections.
- Give agency supervisors information about the level of students’ knowledge and skills (as relevant to students’ agency projects).
- Determine the appropriate nature and degree of faculty/agency collaboration re planning and evaluation.
- Encourage agency supervisors to suggest ways of streamlining projects so that (for example) supervisors and staff do not spend inordinate amounts of time training students.
- Agree on specific “job” descriptions for students.
- Partner on the development and review of assessment materials, such as surveys and students’ reflections.
- Maintain regular communication with supervisors.
- Promptly resolve conflicts and other problems.
- To continually improve your collaborations, develop “a network of personal relationships” (Bentley, 2009).
B. With students
- Provide students with an orientation session that introduces them to the community in general and to the agency in particular.
- Provide students and agency supervisors with a service-learning contract that
a. Details their respective responsibilities
b. Each party signs
- Promptly respond to students’ reflections, being sure to address any problems
II. Flexibility is also important
A. In the student-placement process, consider and address students’ perceptions of your partnering agencies
B. Conduct pilot projects that help you and the agency staff improve the projects for both academic rigor and agency success
C. Adapt projects to the changing needs of agencies and students
D. In the event of unsuccessful student/agency matches, have alternative sites ready