Community-engaged learning, also known as service learning, is often lauded by advocates for its potential benefits to students and communities, yet we are guilty of not fully acknowledging the challenges associated with such approaches.
As practitioners, we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact on student’s critical thinking skills, understanding of their subject, personal and professional development, and civic and social growth. Yet, facilitating these modules usually takes so much more in terms of time and input, and as tutors, we often find ourselves saying it’s about double the amount of work compared to a “normal” module.
Key challenges we encounter include logistical issues, community partner engagement, assessment and evaluation methods, teaching staff engagement and training, ethical considerations, and sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between universities and communities. However, we, like many of our colleagues, have learned to juggle the potential challenges and complexities that come from working in partnership with communities and use these as opportunities for learning.