T1 subpage 5 : Strengthening community relationships and connectedness
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Strengthening Community Relationships and Connectedness

HE students’ mental health concerns are closely linked to performance difficulties, dropping out, and other academic challenges (Bruffaerts et al., 2018). Moreover, the HE landscapes across the world has changed, and this brought into limelight the need to embrace the teaching and learning challenges. According to the literature (Bassett, 2020; Pomerantz & Brooks, 2017; Cachia, Anusca, Ala-Mutka, K. &Punie, Y. 2010; Fook & Sidhu, 2015 ), challenges include:

 

In order to confront and surpass these problem areas, alternative models for teaching-learning have been developed and applied to meet learners’ unique needs. Such academic initiatives are programs, services, facilities, and learning communities that support the academic needs and goals of diverse students and concomitantly promote equity, diversity, and inclusion on HE campuses and institutions. Examples are provided below.

 

  • Civic Engagement: Service and civic learning and volunteering are participatory education initiatives that involve students in work settings aiming to promote civic knowledge, associations, and action. Such involvement is information-rich and helps students develop and hone their reflective, critical, and strategic thinking and become culturally responsive. Participating in civic engagement programming has been associated with positive outcomes for students and the HEI (Bennett, Sunderland, Bartleet, & Power, 2016; Ellerton, Figueroa, Greenwood, & Fiume, 2016). The approaches outlined below are examples of Civic Engagement HE initiatives.

 

  • Civic learning is a process through which young people develop the knowledge, skills, values, and commitments to interact effectively with fellow community members to address shared problems (Barnhardt, Trolian, An, Rossmann, & Morgan, 2019). Such programming includes initiatives such as “Community Learning” where faculty members and students embrace and engage with the community to further student learning by combining academic work with community placements for all involved. The students’ community-based projects are locally relevant.

 

  • Service-learning is a reflective, relational pedagogy that combines community or public service with structured opportunities for learning. One particular form of this form of education is the capstone courses. This course requires students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their course work and combine it with relevant service work. Its pedagogical aim is to explore a new topic or synthesize their understanding of their coursework in one course or throughout the curriculum. This type of experiential engagement empowers students to transition between the world of theory and the world of practice, to make professional contacts and to accumulate experience (Deal et al., 2020; Ellerton, Figueroa, Greenwood, & Fiume, 2016; Jones, Petrie, & Murrell, 2018).

 

  • Student volunteering is a practice of giving, without compensation, of one’s time for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities to benefit others. Volunteerism bolsters students’ knowledge base in different fields, leadership skills, and employability potential (Cnaan et al., 2010).

 

Teaching strategies are of vital importance in engaging HE students. Some examples are listed below.

  • “Active teaching methods”, including role-plays, educational games, field classes, trips and excursions, case studies, brainstorming, problem-based teaching, and simulation in the teaching-learning process. Such strategies are considered useful because they are flexible modes of instruction that allow students with different needs to engage actively with learning. They make students responsible for their learning and promote critical thinking and independent learning (Educause, 2019).

 

  • Using Visual Methods, technology and multimedia are the preferred methods of instruction and learning for all students and for those who need adaptive learning technologies (Galanek, Gierdowski, & Brooks, 2018; Kortegast et al., 2019). Students find the use of multimedia engaging and a facilitator of the learning process. Visual methods enhance student learning and motivate learners to seek additional materials (Courts & Tucker, 2012). Students are encouraged to think creatively and critically when visual and multimedia technologies are applied in instruction (Galanek, Gierdowski, & Brooks, 2018).

 

  • The “Flipped Classroom” or the “Inverted Classroom” –The “Flipped Classroom” or “Inverted Classroom” is a pedagogical technique where students read new material (articles, chapters, books) or watch videos outside of class. Students are assigned the material before class and individually or in small groups to prepare for class on their own time by gaining knowledge and comprehension of the subject matter. In the class meeting, the instructor and the students themselves facilitate learning by posing questions on applying, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, creating, and problem-solving using their understandings from the readings (Mazur, 2009). In this fashion, students engage with the challenging aspects of the course material, which aids them to grasp the topic and promotes problem-solving.

 

The “Inverted or Flipped Classroom” is based on the assumption that conceptualization and competence in learning are based on acquiring the foundations of knowledge, developing an understanding of facts and ideas within specific frameworks, and organizing knowledge so that it is readily available to use in analysis and problem-solving (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).

The “Flipped Classroom” method offers students the benefit of greater control and a chance to take responsibility for their learning by conceptualizing material instead of remembering and regurgitating it on exams. Hence, it is a student-centered pedagogical technique in that students can apply their unique learning styles to conceptualize information and steer the class discussion or ask for clarification from their peers or the instructor. This allows for learning in an autonomous pace and manner. It also allows for the practice of skills (Mazur, 2009).

 

Flipped learning provides students with opportunities to use the knowledge they acquired, get feedback and correct their misconceptions in the active classroom sessions, and hence, take control of their learning and think about it in a metacognitive fashion (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). There is support for the efficacy of the ‘Flipped Classroom” model (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom, 2013; McLaughlin et al., 2013; McLaughlin et al., 2014).

The “Inverted Classroom” places students in the center of the teaching-learning process. Several activities can be used, including assessments clickers or smartphones, question and answer sessions, fishbowl practice, and role play. Online aid for educators is available at www.flippedlearning.org .

Practices such as these transform the teaching-learning process. According to Susan Blum (2016): “the more learning in school resembles the successful learning that is so abundant outside school, the greater the chance that some learning will take place.” (p.2) Undeniably, reflecting on the teaching-learning process and the impasses involved is crucial to initiating and bringing about change, flourishing, academic engagement, meaning, and wellbeing

  1. Promote students connectedness: their sense of belonging, integration and satisfaction with their life in HE
  2. Advance and deepen students engagements and involvement
  3. Relationships with instructors-mentors
  4. community outreach
  5. build and support partnerships with the wider community
    • interships
    • service learning
    • innovation and applied research
    • leadership development
    • volunterism