Communication/College of Humanities
Bringing Collaborative Teaching and Community Engaged Learning to Communication Courses
Faculty Mentor: Ann Darling - Communication/College of Humanities
Recently, the University of Utah reintroduced its service learning designation for undergraduate coursework under the new title of community engaged learning. According to the U’s Office of Sustainability, community engaged learning offers “a method of teaching where students, faculty and community partners work together to apply knowledge in authentic settings that address community needs and meet instructional objectives using action and reflection.” Community-engaged learning offers an opportunity to connect students from multiple communication classes together through coursework organized around a meaningful community-based project that builds practical skills while deepening knowledge of communication processes. Collaborative teaching can be a beneficial way for graduate students to work together when looking to introduce community-engaged learning into their classes. This approach helps new instructors develop new teaching skills in a supportive environment where they can share resources, exchange best practices, and collaborate as they build innovative course offerings.
For my TA Scholars project, I will develop materials to teach COMM 3555 Convergence Journalism as a community-engagement course, alongside a fellow Scholar who will be teaching COMM 3030 in the same semester. Together, we will build course syllabi and calendars, and design class projects around community engaged learning that bring our students together with members of the community to explore issues of food, nutrition, and hunger on campus and across Salt Lake City. Students from my journalism class will develop a portfolio of multimedia news stories that cover student participation in these topics, and will have the opportunity to participate in several on-campus events with COMM 3030 students, including the Social Soup discussion series, the Food Stamp Challenge, and the Bennion Center’s Hunger Banquet. The class will conclude with a screening party of student final projects and reflections on the engaged learning process.
In the spring semester, I will work with the COMM 3030 instructor to develop a handbook of best practices for collaborative teaching and community engaged learning in the communication discipline, based on extensive notes taken during the fall semester. This handbook can be distributed within the Communication department as well as throughout the campus through the Center for Teaching and Learning. The handbook will include information regarding the pedagogical background that informs our project, as well as practical steps and resources for instructors wishing to develop similar teaching approaches in any discipline or department. We will also develop the handbook into a conference presentation, in order to share our experiences with members of the teaching community more generally.
The nature of community engaged learning lends itself well to collaborative teaching efforts among instructors from different courses and disciplines. This project demonstrates how two courses from different communication tracks can bring students together through an organized, semester-long series of community projects focused on issues of food, nutrition, and hunger on campus and in the greater Salt Lake community, and aims to provide an example of this teaching approach for instructors from other courses and disciplines at the university who are interested in bringing community engaged learning to their own classrooms.
This TA Scholars project offers several benefits to the university’s teaching community. First, it provides a tangible example of how the values of the newly minted “community engaged learning” might be incorporated into existing courses taught by graduate students and faculty. The success of our collaborative teaching efforts will be assessed through end-of-semester student feedback as well as individual student reflections on the learning process.
Second, this project provides practical instructions and resources for those seeking to develop a course in this manner. Bringing community engaged learning into the classroom can be a daunting task requiring substantial time and coordination above and beyond the expectations of a regular teaching assignment. These circumstances may be of particular concern for graduate student teachers, as they have limited time to dedicate to teaching assignments, and often change teaching assignments each semester or year, leaving less time to develop additional course features. One strategy for successfully navigating a new course prep with this added learning feature is to collaborate with another instructor from one’s own department or from another discipline, bringing the two classes together through the community project. Our handbook will walk instructors through the process of setting up a class and provide suggestions for how to pair up with fellow instructors when teaching a community engaged course for the first time. This handbook will be reviewed by a TA Scholars mentor and presented to fellow graduate instructors and faculty for feedback before being distributed in its final print and digital form. The information in the handbook will also be presented to the Department of Communication at a Graduate Teaching Workshop event, where fellow graduate students will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion about collaborative teaching.