DELTA Course: Bringing Community University Partnerships to the Classroom

by Helyn Luisi-Mills

The high-impact practice of community-based learning/ research, embodying the Wisconsin Idea, has been shown to enhance student learning outcomes. Beyond that baseline, deeper and more authentic learning happens when care is taken to build solid long-term community relationships, and working to maximize courses for the best quality of community impact. This interactive course allowed participants to learn and share challenges and insights about these issues in a collaborative learning community approach.

CUE instructors, Beth Tryon, Ashleigh Ross, Marian Slaughter, and TA Helyn Luisi-Mills included readings that provided an overview of good practice in campus-community relationship building. Additionally, through the incorporation of skills and real time competency building, students engaged with community partners and faculty. As a collaborative learning community approach took deeper root, students shared their pre and post-course perspectives on community-based learning challenges and rewards. Community partners were invited to share their unique viewpoint and present current challenges and opportunities in current partnerships as case studies. Participants walked away with tangible skills in building community partnerships and curriculum development.

Students in the course produced final presentations outlining their philosophy, methodology, and activities for a CBL course they would teach in the future. Ideas included a peer education module, a geological science and elementary school STEM program, and a community research action project. Students’ submissions showed that the learning goals set by the syllabus were met. Excerpts from their final projects include:

“It [my class] will incorporate CBR into the [students’] work because it is the most effective route for learning about the individuals we serve.”

“Students will interact with non-technical members of the community and collaborate with a community partner to plan and execute a project deemed useful by both the community partner and the students.”

“. . . these service learning projects are intended to be mutually beneficial for both the students and the community partners. Students will learn how to provide useful services in a non-academic setting.”

This partnership with the Morgridge Center, DELTA, and the community was so successful that the invitation was issued to provide the course again. We plan to offer it again this fall. Please contact Helyn Luisi-Mills for details. ■

<< Back to the list of articles