Not every community-based experience goes off perfectly. The Center for Community-Based Learning has put together some common challenges that faculty and staff face when trying to negotiate the relationships among the faculty/staff, student and community organization. Basic solutions are provided here, but faculty and staff are welcome to contact the Center for Community-Based Learning for additional support.
Please click on the links below to expand each section.
Faculty or staff member doesn't establish a strong working relationship with their community contact
Setting up and implementing a community-based course, project or activity can be a time-consuming investment and you may notice that your community relationships are suffering. If so, first consider whether community-based learning is appropriate for the chosen course or activity. Strong relationships allow both you and the community partner to achieve their desired results.
If the community-based component is important to the course content, consider scaling back. For instance, if you're planning to work with multiple community organizations, consider having your students work with just one organization instead.
If the course or activity is already underway and communication with the community partner is suffering, consider scheduling a meeting during and after the experience. Discuss ways in which the problems can be rectified and consider trying the partnership again next semester building off the lessons learned the first time around.
Additionally, CCBL staff are available to assist in the pre-planning, communication with community organizations and conflict resolution between partners.
Additional tips for faculty/staff can be found in the following document: Best Practices to Reduce Risk in CBTL Courses, Assignments or Activities
Students offend or upset the community organization
Work with students ahead of time to help them understand a bit about the community organization and its mission. It's important that the needs of the community organization don't get lost in the students' needs to complete an assignment. Students should approach community-based projects with openness and humility. After all, the experience was included in the course or project, because you thought it would provide students with a valuable learning opportunity. You might need to practice community interactions with the student(s) prior to visiting the site.
If the course or project is underway when an issue occurs, it's nothing to be discouraged by. Just like in all relationships, there's the possibility that two people just won't get along. If this happens, a conversation with both parties should occur. Sometimes the student, faculty/staff and representatives of the community organization may all need to sit down together to determine what went wrong. If an obvious solution is not reached, the student may need to find another placement. This could mean that the relationship is terminated for the time being or, in some cases, students may need to swap placements. If this issue occurs more than once, the student may need to be given an alternative to the community-based component.
Students act or dress unprofessionally when in contact with the community organization
Additional tips for students can be found in the following document: Guidelines & Limitations for UNF Students participating in CBTL Experiences
Community organization does not adhere to the discussed learning outcomes and project expectations
Perhaps the community organization has scaled the project back so far that your students aren't getting anything out of the experience or maybe they've overwhelmed the student with too large of a project. The scope of the project, description of the course and any requirements or expectations should be discussed before the students begin the community-based component. In some cases this can be outline in the affiliation/agency agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding. However, if all of this has occurred and the community organization changes course mid-project, you should sit down with them to discuss the change. Ongoing communication is always important. Reiterate your expectations and student needs. If they're unwilling to accept it or no longer feel the project is beneficial to them, consider cutting ties. Alternative organizations or projects can be considered mid-project or course.
Community organization becomes disengaged
Additional tips for community organizations can be found in the following document: Suggestions for Community Organizations Engaged in CBTL Experiences with UNF Students
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