Engaged Learning on the Block

Reflections on Engaged Teaching and Research on the Block

By: Dr. Jordan Travis Radke, CCE Director

The block intimately shapes community-engaged teaching and research pursuits, given its condensed nature. The community impact of these pursuits will likely be deferred, centralizing the goal of equipping students with knowledge, skills, and motivation to develop into engaged citizens who continue to actively work on issues introduced through course content. One way to understand the purpose of the block is as a key transformative experience that inspires and mobilizes students toward actively working toward social or environmental change. Given this purpose, a few recommendations:

  • For students to engage in community work using best practices (long-term commitments, centering relationship building, asking questions and listening in an effort to respond to community-driven needs), much of their work will be local. Consider ways you could incorporate local cases and people into course content, in an effort to inform students about local issues in which they could engage after the class. Doing so cultivates a sense of place in this region and help students see themselves as local citizens who have a stake in the shared futures of this area.
  • Consider engaging students in community-engaged research. While it's incredibly difficult to build sustained relationships or achieve a community impact through action in 3.5 weeks, it is possible to offerknowledge toward addressing a public problem. Through project-based coursework, thesis, and capstone projects oriented around public problem-solving, students can meaningfully offer knowledge/ideas/data to others who are actively engaged in the work.
  • To extend the life of the block to deepen community impact, consider ways that students might create artifacts that can continue to live after the class. For example, engaging in public discourse - blog posts, Wikipedia edits, newspaper articles and op-eds - can be done in the short term but contribute to long-term discourse in and understanding of publically relevant issues.
  • Given the hope that students will continue to participate in community work after the block, consider ways to guide students to possible avenues to engage after your class; in doing so, help students to integrate their curricular and co-curricular endeavors. For example, invite CCE staff to facilitate a conversation or prepare written materials to share specific, concrete suggestions.
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