Note to Instructors

Tips and Suggestions for Content Delivery

The lessons and activities throughout this curriculum have been designed to enhance students’ understanding of community engagement and civic action, promoting an ethic of working with the community that moves beyond “volunteerism.” To help students develop and deepen this understanding, the curriculum intentionally provides opportunities for self-reflection, innovative problem solving, and critically engaged citizenry.

As with any course, it is important to understand the context of this curriculum. These materials were originally compiled for a 1-credit, seminar-style course taught to first-year students in VCU’s Honors College. The course was originally taught by both University instructors and staff members of community partner organizations. It focuses on the current and historicized social issues of one community–that of Richmond, VA–and we anticipate that others will want to adjust this focus to their own communities.

This curriculum was designed as a 15-week sequence, in which the lessons, as well as the reflections and final assignment, draw from and build upon the previous lessons. That said, each lesson, reflection, and assignment can also be easily adapted as a standalone workshop or incorporated into another class as a single lesson. Further, each lesson included here was designed for a 75-minute class that met once per week; if your class time is shorter or longer, the scope of these lessons will of course need to be adjusted.

In short, there are any number of reasons why you may need to adapt the breadth, depth, and delivery of content for your students, institution, and community–and we encourage you to do so.

Understanding the Lesson Format:

While you may need or want to adjust these materials to meet your needs and the needs of your students or institution, the format of each lesson has been designed to be easy to use in a variety of settings and levels, and for a variety of teaching and learning methodologies. As you move through the materials, you will notice that each weekly instructor Agenda provides several key components:

  •      Lesson Objective
  •      Materials
  •      Narratives for Instructors and Students
  •      Video and Article Hyperlinks
  •      Assignments for Next Class
  •      References

The Lesson Objective articulates the broad learning goal for each specific class within the course and provides a general statement of what students should gain from that particular lesson. The Materials section provides a list of materials and/or links to materials needed for that class. The Narratives, used throughout the agenda, are intended for both instructors and students and identified as such to help guide instructors as they facilitate the lesson. All videos, articles, and/or powerpoints used in these lessons are included as hyperlinks, so you can easily download and share them; these can easily be replaced with media more relevant to your particular objectives or updated with more current articles and videos as time passes and issues change. The final section of the agenda provides a list of readings and/or assignments due for the next class in the sequence. These readings and assignments may not be relevant or may need to be re-ordered, particularly if you choose to use a specific lesson as a stand-alone or adjust the sequence of the lessons. Finally, the References provided at the end of each agenda identify the sources of the materials used and/or adapted for use within each specific lesson.

The course design includes three main assignment components:

(1) Five individual student reflections,

(2) Community Engagement Portfolio Mini Assignment (First-steps Outline), and

(3) Community Engagement Portfolio Action Plan (Final Project).

These assignments are designed to support the sequential course content and to be appropriate for a one-credit class. However, they are also flexible enough to be used individually as well.

A note on sources: We’ve made every effort to give credit and attribution to the original sources of these activities, assignments, and materials, but this is not always possible. We, like all educators, are magpies of good ideas, pulling from an array of widely available, open-sourced materials, years of conversations with fellow teachers, “tried and true” activities used repeatedly and adapted until we no longer remember their sources. We have striven to identify and attribute the sources of all the activities, assignments, and teaching tools used here; however, if we have attributed something mistakenly or omitted an attribution anywhere in these materials, please let us know.

A note on technology: Because our university uses Blackboard as its online interactive learning management system, this course necessarily uses Blackboard software as its communication platform. Many of the materials here are shared with students via Blackboard, including all Assignments, Course Documents (such as readings, web links, and PowerPoint presentations), and the Community Spotlight blog. Thus, you will notice that the syllabus and lessons note that certain materials may be found in Blackboard. Please note that this is for student access; you will need to download and add these materials (from the links provided in the agenda) to your institution’s preferred student communication portal if you so choose.  

As these notes have hopefully made clear, we see this curriculum as highly adaptable. Whether you teach the course as written, adjust it to your own institutional and educational context, or use only one lesson or activity/assignment, we hope you find these materials useful and accessible. If you have any questions, want additional information about this curriculum and its use, or have ideas to share with us, please feel free to use the “Tell us what you think” link located in the site menu or contact us at the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Service Learning.