Welcome to the March edition of Teaching Matters! 

community engagement

Teaching Matters is the University of Edinburgh’s website for debate about learning and teaching, for sharing ideas and approaches to teaching, and for showcasing our successes, including academic colleagues who are leading the way in delivering brilliant teaching.

Every month we take a theme and explore it through a video feature highlighting one of our ‘4*’ teachers, articles, a ‘Focus on a School’, and a number of blog contributions over the month. We also add news items as they come in and run an events listing page.

The theme for this month is community engagement and experiential learning within the curriculum. This mode of learning and teaching can take many forms and we are only able to feature a snapshot of activity across the University including:

Community engagement and experiential learning provide opportunities for our students to develop core transferrable skills, and for personal growth that cannot be replicated within a classroom-setting.  This mode of pedagogy can have a major impact on the quality of the student experience.

Dr Agnieszka Nance from Tulane (a pioneer in this field) has said:

‘When community service is integrated into the curriculum, it can change the culture of the institution, impact admissions and retention, and help students feel like they’ve found their place.’

Building community engagement into the wider curriculum is one of the most effective ways in which we can fulfil three dimensions of the University strategic plan:

  1. To make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the wider world
  2. To produce graduates fully equipped to achieve the highest personal and professional standards
  3. And to demonstrate our commitment to social justice.

Reflecting on the examples of community engagement and experiential learning highlighted on the Teaching Matters website, I was reminded of the words of Professor Derek Bok, a former President of Harvard, and honorary graduate of this University. He was also a pioneer of curricular-based public service, and in his final presidential address said the following:

‘The task that awaits us is to help the University rise to the challenges it faces so that we can succeed in making the fullest use of our exceptional resources for the benefit of all of humankind.’

I hope that you enjoy this edition of Teaching Matters and encourage you to get involved. Let us have your news, let us know when you are organising events on learning and teaching we can publicise, and send in your own blogs and comments. We look forward to hearing from you and working with all of you in supporting students to ‘find their place’ and positioning the University to be sector-leading in the provision of transformative education.

Read this month’s features on community engagement and experiential learning.

Find out about health-enhancing and community engagement opportunities for students in Edinburgh via Edinburgh Connected

Dive deeper into community engagement in a short report on ‘Community Engagement as an Integral Part of the Curriculum’ from University Senate in February 2015.

Lesley McAra

Professor Lesley McAra is Assistant Principal Community Relations and holds the Chair of Penology in the Law School. Lesley’s overall ethos is to conduct research with, on and for the community; a mode of knowledge infusion which partners the University with the community, using research evidence to promote and campaign for positive social and political change and undertaking engagement and outreach work as a fundamental part of the research process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *