COMMENTS SOUGHT: Working in the curriculum for CERL
Community Engaged Research and Learning (CERL) involves students working with community partners on collaboratively-designed, real-life projects, within the curriculum, for mutual benefit. This series of three blogposts is based on experiences from the Erasmus+ funded CIRCLET project where we supported educators to embed CERL projects in academic courses and modules. They are built on our experiences in the project and we are grateful to all those educators who participated in and contributed to our project activities for sharing their learning, challenges and hopes along the way.
This blogpost summarises our advice on working in the curriculum for CERL. . Two further blogposts deal with working with students and working with community partners. We would like your thoughts on the following:
- Are the reflective questions helpful?
- Do the recommendations make sense? Is anything missing based on your experience?
- Is there anything from your experience you’d like to share with us?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your observations and comments with us, ultimately by the 15th of July.
- CRITICALLY ASSESSING YOUR COURSE
Reflective Question: In what ways can CERL fit in the learning outcomes and assessment methods? Is the course outline due for review?
- Examine where you could try a CERL approach. As a pilot, you can start small (with one student) or in some small part of your course.
- Examine the learning outcomes of your course. For example CERL can support learning outcomes on research or technical skills, employability, or working across sectors or with external partners.
- CHANGING COURSE ACTIVITIES
Reflective Question: Where could you build in engaged research, ideally connected to assessment? How can learning outcomes and assessment criteria be re-interpreted or reframed?
- Consider revising course activities without making formal changes to course outlines.
- Work with your partner to collaboratively tailor an activity that fits your course whilst meeting partner needs.
- Build ongoing formative feedback into the process to deal with student concerns and ensure they can deliver something valuable to the partner.
- Formally build feedback from community partners into course activities. For example, students can be required to present progress to the partner.
- Consider giving assessment weight to the process of working with the community partner to enhance student motivation. You can consider grading final output, level of participation and/or the reflective process the students have gone through.
- If you want to build community partner feedback into assessment, consider what support the partner will need to ensure that the process is academically rigorous.
- Supported peer assessment can encourage self-reflection for students.
- Consider building in competitiveness if appropriate – e.g. students competing to produce the ‘best’ idea.
- MAKING FORMAL CHANGES TO COURSE STRUCTURES
Reflective Question: How much appetite do you have for making formal changes and how much is it needed? What are your restrictions – e.g. from professional accreditation requirements?
- Does your institution have a review process for curricula? Timing is important. Check deadlines and schedules of business at your institution and reflect whether and when would be a good chance for making changes.
- Engage with specialist staff such as CERL teams or educational developers for support and sharing of good practice.
- For untenured staff, try to involve senior staff, especially if CERL is less well known in your area. This can highlight your innovative practice and give you support.
- Demonstrate how CERL contributes to educational frameworks and policy priorities that matter in your academic area such as addressing diversity, understanding ethical practices, addressing the sustainable development goals and building global and democratic citizenship.
- REVIEWING YOUR COURSE
Reflective question: What do you need to do to support the final evaluation of the CERL process, output and outcomes?
- Evaluate the project and the process with community partners and students and critically evaluate your own role. This is different from assessment and is focused on the learning of all stakeholders, and especially on your own learning.
- You can use this reflection processes with students and partners to help you review whether the course needs changed after an initial pilot.
- Follow up with the partner and students to capture changes that have happened as a result of the project (impact). This evidence may be useful if you want to make a case for formal changes to the course.