The 2019 ACU and DePaul University Conference on Community Engagement and Service Learning resulted in some fantastic outcomes for both universities. Over 100 delegates across the three days attended presentation sessions and roundtables, culminating in lively collaboration sessions, promising that goodwill and work will continue between ACU and DePaul.

Focusing on some of the contemporary challenges of university-community engagement/service learning at the two largest Catholic universities in the world – ACU and DePaul University in Chicago - there was much discussion and lots of ideas shared concerning best practice. The biggest takeaways from the three-day event were:

  • The need for critical reflection on community engagement programs. Are they responsive to developing capacities?
  • The need for enhancing the use of assets-based language in community engagement curriculum.
  • External promotion of community engagement as a central pillar of our universities.
  • The value of embedding community engagement frameworks and approaches into curriculum.

It is hoped that the inaugural conference will lead to a biannual tradition of scholarship and sharing.

Matthew-Pink
"The first conference has far exceeded our expectations and it was amazing to spend time with so many people committed to their university mission through community engagement. I am excited about the future work between ACU and DePaul."
Dr Matthew Pink
National Community Engagement Manager

Abstracts

An international and interdisciplinary group of presenters shared their insights, learnings and ideas throughout the three days of the conference, prompting vigorous discussion and collaboration.

Contemporary challenges in community engagement and service learning for Catholic institutions

Dr Howard Rosing, DePaul University
Prof Sandra Jones, Australian Catholic University

ACU and DePaul share both a strong commitment to community engagement/service learning and an underpnning philosophy. We work to build meaningful engagement initiatives through long-term partnership-building with organisations that support people living on the margins; and we recognise and promote mutual benefits for students and community partners. We also seek to create academically-embedded community engagement that provides students with opportunities to grow intellectually, personally and socially. However, we also recognise that CE/SL poses a range of challenges for students, for staff/faculty, and for community partners; thus we apply a critical lens to how community engagement experiences are structured and implemented.

Our goals for conference attendees are to learn to better facilitate ways of learning while transforming society, explore what it means to build meaningful relationships between higher education institutions and communities, identify ways to overcome the barriers to meaningful engagement between students, staff (administrative and academic) community partners, and to learn what academically-driven community engagement means at two mission-driven Catholic universities.

In this presentation we pose questions for attendees to consider throughout the conference and when they return to their workplaces:

  • How do we effectively communicate the what and why of CE/SL to our diverse groups of students while staying true to our institutional faith backgrounds?
  • How do we increasingly and effectively embed CE/SL learning into curriculum without it being seen as an 'add-on' or burden to staff/faculty and students?
  • How do we develop our CE/SL praxis in ways that are responsive to community realities, and the increasingly corporate nature of modern universities?
  • How do we build a sustainable partnership for learning, sharing and collaborating on community engagement between ACU and DePaul?

Download presentation slides (PDF 9.2mb)

Using the wisdom of others and our own experiences to design an ethical and responsive model for institutional community engagement

A/Prof Billy Osteen, University of Canterbury

What does it take for a university to design and implement an ethical and responsive model of community engagement? Too often the town and gown relationship is fraught with rowdy students living amongst long term residents or well-meaning researchers entering into communities to extract data without considering mutually beneficial outcomes. It may well take tragic or severe circumstances to mitigate the large and imposing footprint of our institutions. For the University of Pennsylvania, the murder of a student on campus led it to examine the lack of a relationship it had with the local community, which is one of the poorest areas in the US. The result was an institutional imperative for community engagement through the development of the renowned Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Similarly, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans forced Tulane University to deal with tragedy by closing its doors for a semester. When it reopened, there was an institution wide focus on being an active partner for the rebuild of the city through the establishment of the Center for Public Service, which administers the requirement that every student takes two service-learning courses before graduating. At the University of Canterbury, we used these examples to create an academic response to the thousands of our students who provided immediate assistance to Christchurch residents following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. What are the lasting lessons from universities’ responses to dramatic circumstances and how might we do so when the situation isn’t so dire?

Service learning’s role in student success at DePaul

Prof Caryn Chaden, DePaul University

Juxtaposing Barbara Holland’s model of institutional commitment to service and with David Kalsbeek’s model for institutional strategies for improving retention rates, Chaden argues that an institutional commitment to service learning can contribute to improving rates of degree completion. Data from DePaul’s Community Service Studies minor will illustrate this connection.

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Incorporating global learning exchanges and course-based action research: pedagogical opportunities for Australian Catholic University and DePaul University

Prof Nila Ginger Hofman, DePaul University

In this presentation, I discuss two possible approaches to engaged service learning and suggest a blended approach of the two in collaboration between Australian Catholic University and DePaul. Global Learning Exchanges (GLE) is a relatively new framework for internationalizing university courses and thereby providing cross-cultural experiences for our students. Course-based Action Research (CBAR) is an only slightly older umbrella term that incorporates community-focused and social justice-orientated research.

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Key themes arising from day one and two of conference (and ten tips for successful cross-institutional collaborations)

Dr Matthew Pink, Australian Catholic University

This presentation will discuss the synthesis of key themes and discourse from the first two days of the ACU and DePaul Conference on Community Engagement and Service Learning. The presentation will then discuss tips for successful cross-institutional collaborations as academics at the conference seek to leverage expertise and co-create in new Community Engagement and Service Learning Initiatives.

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Growing our own in a cultural safe space

Dr Doseena Fergie, Australian Catholic University

For years the Higher Education (HE) sector has been lacking an Indigenous voice. In recent times at the Australian Catholic University (ACU), there has been an upsurge of support to “Grow our Own” cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff. This is being done in a multi-pronged approach through:

  1. The launch of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Employment Strategy 2018-2020 Respect and Recognition
  2. The Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2019 – 2021
  3. The Building Cultural Capacity Project highlighting the importance of Embedding Indigenous Knowing and using Indigenous pedagogy/andragogy in curricula.
  4. The recruitment and retention of Indigenous Australian postgraduate students and academic staff to increase Indigenous leadership and accelerate careers.
  5. The enrichment of Indigenous student engagement experiences e.g. overseas and in rural and remote Indigenous Australian communities

The approach has a cross-faculty focus and will inform practice improvements and study options and support retention and broader academic success. It will increase student enrolments and strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. A higher success rate in a culturally safe space motivates Indigenous Australians to remain in the HE arena and become the teachers of our Knowing to the next generation of students (Indigenous and non-Indigenous). This elevates ACU to a higher level of effective community partnership and action that animates the University’s Mission; responds to community aspirations; and implements transformational change within the University. It will showcase a model that other HE providers could emulate.

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What, why and how: community engagement in the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences Brisbane

Dr Daniel van den Hoek, Australian Catholic University

Background: Views on what constitutes community engagement (CE) vary within schools, faculties and departments within our university. To a large extent, CE is considered any activity which involves stakeholders from outside the university system. Moreover, these activities are typically identified as opportunities for promotion, financial reward and visibility. This is important and of benefit to the university and its partners, however the link between such programs and the university mission, vision and values may not always be clear. Objective: To explore and develop the answer to what, why and how CE can and should be considered core business within our university and align with the ACU values of the pursuit of knowledge, dignity of the human person and acting in the common good. This presentation will use the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences Brisbane (SoBHSB) as a case study for the implementation and development of CE programs which align with university core business, mission, vision, values and the student experience. Evidence will be drawn from current and future programs linked with SoBHSB to demonstrate the feasibility, sustainability and impact of programs on the McCauley Campus at Banyo. These programs will provide student experience and placement opportunities, be of benefit to those marginalised or disadvantaged from participation and ensure that ACU graduates are identifiable in the broader community beyond their formal qualifications and skills.

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Community-based service learning in DePaul’s Graduate Nursing Program

Mr Jonathan Handrup, DePaul University
Dr Raegan Quandt, DePaul University
Dr Michelle Neuman, DePaul University

In Community-based Service Learning in DePaul’s Graduate Nursing Program participants will hear from two DePaul School of Nursing faculty members and one Steans Center Administrator on best practices for executing a departmental service-learning initiative in a Master’s level College of Health Sciences program. The audience will also learn how the initiative impacts community partners in the city of Chicago in a case study from one of the program’s longest standing partners, Phil’s Friends (https://philsfriends.org/). Presenters will conclude by showing survey data from students on how the program affected their sense of citizenship and the role community will play in their future career as a Registered Nurse.

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The Kicking Goals Together Program: A case study of positive youth development among youth from refugee and migrant backgrounds

Dr Matthew Pink, Australian Catholic University
Mrs Carla Zafiriadis, Multicultural Development Australia
Ms Kelly Sibanda, Multicultural Development Australia

This presentation discusses the development of the Kicking Goals Together Program. Kicking Goals Together (KGT) is a Sport for Development Program that combines a soccer competition with job skills training for youth from refugee, migrant, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. KGT was established in 2016 and has been a site for Positive Youth Development (PYD) since its inception. This presentation also discusses the outcomes of KGT via a case study of PYD that utilises the Holt et al. (2017) model of PYD Through Sport as an analysis framework. The presentation then proceeds to feature individual case studies of PYD to personalise and illuminate the developing capacities among individuals who participated in the program. Future directions for this university-community partnership are then discussed in light of the sustainability and expansion of KGT.

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The Future in Youth program, Timor Leste

Dr Paul Taylor, Australian Catholic University

The ACU Future in Youth program has been running for 10 years in the Baucau region of Timor Leste. The program began as an after school soccer/football program designed to provide beneficial recreation opportunities to local youth, to increase positive community interaction and recreation. ACU staff and students modeled the effective implementation of the program and trained local coaches to implement and lead it year round. The effectiveness of this saw the program became self-sufficient and new challenges were sought. In consultation with community partners an opportunity to increase quantity and quality of physical activity and education in local schools was identified. This remains the current focus of the program and sees ACU students and staff travelling to Baucau to demonstrate physical activity sessions and train teachers to lead them throughout the school terms. A focus on capacity building in our partner communities is maintained. A further tenet of the programs has always been reciprocity. More specifically a desire to see capacity built in both our partner community and the ACU students leading it. Students experience both professional and personal growth during their involvement. Professionally, skills such as exercise prescription and provision, communication and leadership are further honed. By providing effective immersion in the local culture and through interaction with their fellow team members we also hope that students build capacity in personal skills with a strong focus on empathy.

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Inside/Out Program at Stateville Maximum Security Prison: Planting seeds beyond prison walls

Mr John Zeigler, DePaul University

The presentation focuses on an Inside–Out Program course held at a maximum-security prison near Joliet, Illinois in the U.S.  The course examines the social practices, law, tradition, and institutional culture of masculinity. Students map central debates surrounding masculinity, including why it is frequently thought to be “in crisis.” DePaul’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program supports courses in which there is a marriage of theoretical inquiry with the practical examination achieved by holding class inside Stateville Correctional Center throughout the term.  Involving roughly equal numbers of DePaul “outside” and incarcerated (“inside”) students learning together, the class utilizes a variety of active learning techniques and leads to the production of one or more end-of-term course projects. Some of the projects have generated partnerships with a collection of grassroots organizations in Chicago that have begun to co-create programs that foster productive community involvement with young males.

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The Big Idea Project: Australian Catholic University

Dr Ellen Warne, Australian Catholic University

Embedding community engaged learning into classroom settings provides stimulating challenges for undergraduate students in the National School of Arts. This case study explores the development of a subject that connects students with the concept of social entrepreneurship and the identification of areas of disadvantage that might be effectively addressed through a small-scale social entrepreneurship or social business. Partnering with the Big Idea team that is part of The Big Issue, ACU students must identify and research gaps or areas of need for different disadvantaged groups, consider existing government or NGO services and devise an innovative concept for a sustainable intervention. The students, within the National School of Arts pair problems with problem-solving; draw on their humanities research background to investigate existing services and new ideas; hear from people who have experienced homelessness or disadvantage; engage with existing social entrepreneurs; create a concept for self-sustaining schemes and develop a budget for it. Twice in the semester the students pitch their concept to their peers, judges and people who have experienced disadvantage and homelessness, which forces them to field questions about the suitability of their choices; potential assumptions or flaws in their planning and demonstrate an evaluative quality to their planning and engagement. This paper explores the way this embedded community-engaged experience in the classroom opens up new understanding of levels of disadvantage in the local community as well as a sense of growing confidence in their own skills to define, investigate, innovate, budget and evaluate options for innovation and change.

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Intentional design frameworks for critical engagement in the liberal arts: community justice in criminology

Dr Jaqueline Lazú, DePaul University

This paper is part of a larger case study of the Criminology Program at DePaul University, and the development of a transformational, counter colonial curriculum, anchored by methods of critical community engagement.  In this study, I highlight three themes that stand out in our curriculum, and are important to this overall objective.  The first is the imperative of an anticolonial, antiracist and feminist curriculum and pedagogy.  To this end, collaborative work stands alongside advocacy and solidarity as expressions of an asset-based approach to teaching, research and critical community engagement in the program.  Secondly, the program centralizes the experiences of communities of resistance and their capacities to address the many and varied systems that affect crime in their neighborhoods.  Finally, the program was developed considering theories of subject positioning, participative methods and cross-cultural educational research. These are components of a curricular framework in which matters of pedagogy and agency are understood as central to public discourse and the social responsibility of higher education. 

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Engaging with our Pacific neighbours: A pre-service teacher education program in Solomon Islands

Dr Mellita Jones, Australian Catholic University
Dr Renata Cinelli, Australian Catholic University
Ms Mary Gallagher, Australian Catholic University

The Solomon Islands Teacher Education Program offers an annual cultural immersion experience for ACU pre-service teachers (PSTs). Based in one of the world’s poorest countries, the program addresses issues of basic human rights by raising awareness, providing education, and inspiring action. PSTs experience a culture very different from their own, and live in conditions commensurate with host teachers. Working in partnership with local schools and teachers, we build capacity, foster learning and promote human dignity. The program is profound in its impact for all involved. Two partner schools report increased student enrolments as a result of the program, and one also reports higher rates of student retention in the secondary years. Teachers report increased student confidence and higher literacy rates, as well as pedagogical learning from their own work with PSTs. A first ever gathering of the three communities serviced by one school occurred, something attributed to children’s communication to their parents about the program. Outcomes for PSTs include teacher identity formation, enhanced communication skills and increased ability to teach in EAL/D contexts. Moreover, PSTs demonstrate insights into global issues and return to Australia as agents of change in their personal and professional lives. Five PSTs have returned to Solomon Islands since their experience, and some, who are now ACU alumni, have instigated their own partnerships through the schools in which they work. The program was recently recognised through a 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award for Community Engagement as a result of the sustained and successful outcomes.

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ACU's Thai-Burma Program and engagement with the Myanmar refugee crisis

Dr Duncan Cook, Australian Catholic University
Prof Michael Ondaatje, Australian Catholic University

Australian Catholic University has, since 2004, provided tertiary education for young adults who have fled persecution and economic hardship in Myanmar, arriving in refugee camps in Thailand. The Thai-Burma Program is ACU’s ongoing engagement in one of the longest ongoing refugee situations in the world. The Faculty of Education and Arts, in partnership with York University (Canada), the Marist Asia Foundation, and Palms Australia, delivers a community-embedded education program using online and blended learning approaches. This program has, to date, enabled 248 young adults to graduate with a Diploma in Liberal Studies qualification from the School of Arts. This paper examines the origins of ACU’s Thai-Burma program and the important role that ACU’s Thai-Burma Program plays in community development. It also examines how graduates from the program have used their qualifications for the common good, with the impact of the program continue to align with the Catholic identity of ACU. The paper further considers what challenges lie ahead within the Thai-Myanmar context and how ACU’s community-embedded education model can be replicated in other protracted refugee situations.

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Engaging in meaningful project-based service learning for graduate business students

Dr Jaclyn Jensen, DePaul University

This presentation highlights the value and impact of service learning for graduate business students. The “WE CARE” model of service learning is introduced in the context of a graduate class on consulting skills. This model emphasizes service learning that is welcomed, evidence-based, complimentary, action-oriented, reciprocal and epistemic. Practical keys to success are discussed along with student reactions to their experiences.

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Engaging the broader regional community on human rights issues: the Thomas More Law School Death Penalty Project

Dr Catherine Renshaw, Australian Catholic University
Mr Dominic Cudmore, Australian Catholic University

In 2018, law students from Australian Catholic University partnered with the international anti-death penalty organization Reprieve https://www.reprieve.org.au/ in a project designed to investigate and report on the deterrence effect of the death penalty in the Asia Pacific region. The students, working with a team of barristers and solicitors from the legal community in Melbourne, undertook qualitative and quantitative research on the effect of the death penalty in each of the Asian jurisdictions in which the death penalty still operates. The findings of the Death Penalty Project (DPP) were presented by Reprieve at the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, held in Brussels in February 2018. http://congres.ecpm.org/en/. The DPP is an ongoing project involving law students, Reprieve Australia, members of the public and the legal profession. The DPP introduces law students to the real-world implications of legal research and fosters development of the professional skills required to work as part of a collaborative team of lawyers on a large-scale comparative law project. Most importantly, the DPP engages students in thinking about the intersection of law, morality, ethics and politics and the dynamics of human rights change in real world situations. In the context of recent changes to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in relation to the death penalty, law students involved in the DPP report that their research and engagement on the issue gives them a clearer understanding of the impact of the death penalty on human dignity. This presentation discusses the impact of the DPP for communities agitating against the death penalty in countries within the Asia Pacific region, and the challenges and opportunities for students of participating in a rigorous, professionally engaged research program with real-world effects.

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Disruptive practices: resisting violence through feminist-based service learning

Dr Beth Catlett, DePaul University

This presentation addresses the ways in which feminist-informed community-based service-learning experiences can be a vehicle for resisting violence and advancing social justice.  The presentation is informed by research from Take Back the Halls: Ending Violence in Relationships and Schools, a teen dating violence prevention and community activism program for urban youth as part of a community based service-learning experience for undergraduate students at DePaul University.  In this context, students are exposed to feminist and critical theoretical frameworks designed to uncover structures of power, privilege, and oppression.  Interrogation of these frameworks within the context of students’ service work has the potential to be destabilizing for college students, an experience I argue is necessary in order for the students to identify and challenge the foundational aspects of systemic inequalities. Specifically, this presentation focuses on college students’ inquiry into their own positions of privilege, high school and college students’ emergent understanding of interpersonal violence as shaped by interlocking systems of inequality, the use of embodied and contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation, and journaling to animate and strengthen student experiential learning, and finally the ways in which new insights translate into a transformational orientation to advance social justice.

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Community engagement as foundation for effective teaching practice 

A/Prof Nasir Butrous, Australian Catholic University

Community engagement is the process through which a university brings the capabilities of its staff and students to work collaboratively with community groups and partner organisations to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. Community engagement builds human capacity, improves wellbeing, and produces reciprocal, just, and sustainable outcomes in the interests of students, communities, and the university. This paper reflects on community engagement projects undertaken within the Peter Faber Business School and its predecessor over the last ten years and demonstrates that a well-designed, implemented and evaluated community engagement project forms the basis for effective teaching practice. The paper interweaves the implementation of community engagement projects with principles of good teaching practice in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) and classroom factors that promote the development of academic and intellectual skills (Cross & Steadman, 1996). The ultimate objective of community engagement and teaching practices is to enhance students’ employability skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organising, self-management, learning and technology. It also enhances a university’s ability to meet its core objectives in addition to meeting the needs of the community/industry partner. It is a win-win situation for all involved. The paper concludes by proposing the four religious dialogue principles as the four pillars of community engagement.

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The university as a public educator: learning, service learning and teaching for engagement

Prof Jim Nyland, Australian Catholic University
Prof David Davies, University of Derby
Ms Emer Clarke, Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

The focus of this paper will be on universities, primarily those in Australia, though it should be relevant for many others around the world especially those which have been part of the anglo-American sphere of development. The paper will address learning (including service learning) as a key component of engagement. Engagement is primarily about university strategies for inclusion, for community involvement, for the best recruitment policies, for spelling out right thinking values, for access and widening participation, for delivering correct environmental policies and outcomes and for locking in its own graduates as future donors. Given that engagement is inevitably diverse with many facets, our concern here is with a more focused yet penetrating theme within it - that of the university as a public educator. It is this theme which feeds into our focus on learning (especially service learning) and teaching and suggests the possibility of re-shaping social knowledge to fit the emerging concerns of the contemporary world. It is in the spirit of public and democratic education that we think critical thinking and critical action through service learning can lead to a better role for universities and better outcomes for students of all kinds. We will highlight four linked themes within our notion of the university as a public educator through curriculum engagement, namely:

  • Critical thinking and service learning
  • Challenges of engagement and learning in the digital world
  • The problems we are addressing: service learning and teaching strategies
  • A critical curriculum in practice and the community.

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Critical community engagement in a service scholarship program

Ms Angelica Chestleigh, DePaul University

Critical community engagement is a powerful tool that can be used to help students and interns understand the context of their service though focused reflection, hands on experiential learning, and academic inquiry. The Community Service Scholarship program is a co-curricular program that connects students to our Community Service Studies Minor while being critically engaged in the community doing service.  In this presentation, we will discuss ways that program development, an ABCD lens, and purposeful placement in the Community Service Scholarship Program leads to socially engaged and civically minded scholars in the university.

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The cultural challenge of service learning: resisting the savior complex

Dr Valerie C. Johnson, DePaul University

Service learning facilitates the transformative role of education by challenging previously held beliefs about racial and class inequality. This is particularly the case for students whose racial and socioeconomic backgrounds differ from those they encounter in the service-learning experience. This presentation examines the chief challenges that students face when the service experience brings them face to face with their own racial and class privilege, and broadens their understanding about the ways that systemic biases replicate inequality. Chief among these challenges is cognitive dissonance and the savior complex. A goal of the discussion will be to share strategies to overcome these challenges, and to emphasize the responsibility that service-learning programs have to ensure that professors themselves fully understand the self-replicating nature of inequality and the ability of indigenous communities to transform their own communities.

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School, family and community: Learning for Life project

Ms Nicola Cull, Australian Catholic University
Mr Ryan Collins, Australian Catholic University

Australia has many vibrant communities in terms of cultural diversity, resilience, hope and humanity. However, there is a growing disparity in educational outcomes between the rich and the poor, with those living in low socio-economic communities less likely to gain access to higher education than those in high socio-economic communities. This presentation will explore the purpose and design of a community-based collaboration, between Australian Catholic University’s School of Education, Equity Pathways and local primary schools in low socio-economic areas, from the conceptualization of the numeracy initiative ‘School, Family and Community: Learning for Life project’ to its implementation. Equity, understanding that not everyone starts at the same place and creating just opportunities for equal access to education, is at the heart of the project. The project engages ACU students through community engagement and widening participation programs and focuses on providing educational opportunities whilst providing potentially transformative experiences for all involved (ACU students, ACU staff, teachers, school students, parents and the wider community). It is a chance for an ongoing connection between the university and the school community – essentially ‘Bringing the university into school community’ before the program culminates in the school community visiting the university. The presentation will also reflect on the challenges and opportunities associated with a multi-campus/state project in ensuring that the collaborations remain mutually beneficial, sustainable and transformative.

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Building faculty capacity for community engagement teaching

Dr Helen Damon-Moore, DePaul University

Many university faculty members today are motivated to practice community-based service learning by the desire to improve student learning, enhance curriculum, and encourage students to provide service to their community (Forbes, et al).  In this interactive session participants will reflect on the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to build further capacity for faculty engaging in such community-based teaching and learning. We will consider how we might best connect faculty, students, community partners, and staff through such creative capacity-building strategies as co-educator development programs; network- or place-based emphases; community and institutional reward structures; and mindful faculty reflection to help to create deeper and more lasting social change. Based on perspectives from the 2019-2020 Steans Center Faculty Workshop and Community Conversation Certification Program.

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The status of service-learning in Australia

Ms Carol-joy Patrick, Griffith University

This presentation will provide an overview of the present status of service-learning (SL) in Australia through reporting on a desktop audit undertaken by Griffith University in late 2018 as part of a wider review of Australian Service-learning. The desktop audit provided a comprehensive overview of all institutions in Australia implementing SL and the degree to which they are committed to support or grow the curriculum, using Bringle and Hatcher’s (1995, p. 112) commonly cited definition: “Service-learning [is] a course-based, credit-bearing, educational experience in which students a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.” The presentation will discuss responses to the following broad audit questions:

  • Do students earn credit towards their degree by participation in SL?
  • Is the placement/service within a community service, charity or not-for-profit organisation?
  • Is there an element of structured self-reflection involved in the SL program?

The audit revealed trends and common approaches to SL across Australia as part of identifying an overall impression of the scope of SL across higher education which included highlighting emerging areas of interest within the field.

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Know Your Why: Critical-Self Reflection Towards Critical Service Learning

Mr Ruben Alvarez, DePaul University

Mitchell argues that “[a]ddressing…logistical issues precedes the skills needed to facilitate deeper discussions and learning that guide students to challenge existing structural and systemic social problems (Mitchell, 2008).” And yet, how can we hope to design and facilitate transformational learning experiences without an explicit commitment to first engage ourselves, and then our students, in critical-self reflection? In this session, participants will delve into how the Vincentian Charism invites DePaul University faculty, students and staff to engage in critical-self reflection as a prerequisite to civic and community engagement. Participants will learn practical tools for facilitating critical-self reflection and creating anti-oppressive classrooms.

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Project-based Service Learning and Civic Engagement Partnerships in STEAM: Transformative learning that leaves a legacy

Ms Miranda Standberry-Wallace, DePaul University

Widely tested research confirms Community-based Service Learning (CbSL) is a High-Impact Educational Practice with significant positive impact on student success, especially heightened for traditionally underserved populations. In project-based CbSL, students, individually or in groups, partner with community-based organizations to undertake a project that results in a tangible product at the end of the term. Used in disciplines ranging from the sciences to the arts, project-based CbSL in STEAM, is a targeted educational approach to learning that “uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process” while afforded exposure to STEAM professions with strong imbalances in the racial/ethnic and gender representation. A presentation grounded in storytelling, this workshop includes pedagogy in practice in which project-based CbSL STEAM courses will be highlighted as case-study examples. In addition, the role of university-community liaison(s) to serve as essential connectors in building mutually beneficial, authentic relationships with community will be emphasized from various constituent perspectives. Best practices and challenges in assessment and activities, classroom assignments, the art of community collaboration, and leveraging institution and community assets will be presented for examination and discussion.

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The Homework Club: Sacred Heart Primary School Fitzroy

Mr Matthew Shawcross, Sacred Heart Primary School

Sacred Heart, Fitzroy proudly looks after the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs of every child. We provide a safe, caring and supportive learning environment and work to ensure that all students can experience success. Learning is for life not just for school. At Sacred Heart, we are focused on learning that enables us to participate fully in life in the 21st century. Our school vision – ‘Learning together to empower all through connectedness, engagement and Catholic Faith in action’ – inspires us in our work every day.

Sacred Heart is, indeed, an inspiring place to be every day. We embrace the challenge of providing a comprehensive learning program that will enable all of our young people to fully participate in modern society. At Sacred Heart, we highly value community. As the Catholic School in All Saints Parish, we espouse the values taught by Jesus in the Gospels. Our school is enhanced by our richly diverse population. We welcome children and families of all nationalities and faith traditions.

Sacred Heart, Fitzroy is a small school with big expectations. We are a school community where everyone is known by name. We highly value the learning partnership between school and the wider community and actively work to engage our families in a shared conversation about learning. One such community partnership is with Australian Catholic University though our weekly Homework Club. ACU students work as dedicated one-on-one tutors to enhance school-based learning and encourage the development of literacy and numeracy skills through a variety of learning activities. The program has been developed to:

  • provide a safe learning environment where children are supported by tutors to improve their literacy and numeracy skills
  • help in building up educational aspirations and promote positive relationships between the children of Sacred Heart, Fitzroy and ACU students
  • build the capacity of parents to support and encourage their children’s learning at home
  • support the Social Emotional Literacy Education Model used by Sacred Heart School’s teachers.

In 2010 the Homework Support Program was named as the winner of the NAB Bank’s Schools First Local Impact Award.

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The Multicultural Development Australia (MDA) and ACU partnership

Mrs Carla Zafiriadis, Multicultural Development Australia
Ms Kelly Sibanda, Multicultural Development Australia

This presentation will discuss the partnership between MDA and ACU, and how this has led to mutually beneficial outcomes for MDA, the University, and importantly, community. This partnership relies on mutual trust and open communication and creates a space for the strengths of ACU, MDA, and community to work for the common good. The history of the partnership and keys to successful collaboration will be discussed.

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Caritas Australia: Just visiting? Take off your shoes, lest you tread on someone’s dream

Mrs Megan Bourke, Caritas Australia

Caritas Australia promotes the use of Catholic Social Teaching and best practice international development when planning and delivering overseas immersion experiences for Australian educators. In Australian Catholic secondary schools and to the broader Christian school network across Australia, we encourage the use of reflective practice to ensure faith-filled discernment and delivery of community service and service learning programs by school leaders. This workshop will explore the opportunities for secondary students to be well prepared for mutually beneficial transformative experiences.

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Moondani Murrup’ Embrace Spirit – Jim-baa-yer Indigenous Higher Education Unit

Mr Linc Yow Yeh, Australian Catholic University

Jim-baa-yer Indigenous Higher Education Unit is one of four IHEUs within the Australian Catholic University, located in Melbourne but which serves the Indigenous student cohort of the St Patrick’s campus of Melbourne and Aquinas campus of Ballarat. The local Melbourne Aboriginal Woiwurrung term Jim-baa-yer simply translates to, to learn, to teach. In the context of engagement, Jim-baa-yer along with the other 3 IHEUs based in Brisbane, Sydney, and Canberra provide cultural, pastoral and academic support to Indigenous students on each of ACU’s six campuses.  The level of engagement of Indigenous students to IHEUs is actually one crucial measure of success for all IHEUs. The conversation in this presentation focuses on specific strategies which underpin and explain the success of Jim-baa-yer student and community engagement.  The presentation is simply an overview of how these strategies are implemented, in order to better understand, improve and implement greater engagement, beneficial for all involved.

Download presentation slides (PDF 2.5mb)

Conference outputs

During the conference the wonderful team from Accenture Melbourne generously supported the objective synthesis of key conference themes and outcomes via Affinity Clustering. We are grateful for the excellent work completed by Accenture and the following PDF encapsulates key themes and discussion points that arose through this process.

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