Author
Author Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 78, Issue 2 - October, 2018
PublisherITEEA, Reston, VA
ReleasedSeptember 25, 2018
Copyright@2018
ISBN2158-0502
Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 78, Issue 2 - October 2018

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PREMIER PD: School and Community

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Countless research studies have shown that employing a variety of instructional methods results in greater student engagement, higher graduation rates, and better student achievement overall (Shernoff, et al., 2003). In order to incorporate a large variety of methods into the classroom, it is important to make use of external resources to help ease the workload of the teacher and supplement the existing curriculum. The school's surrounding community, its businesses, organizations, and programs can provide a wealth of instructional enhancement, expanded resources, and curricular enrichment.

Perhaps the most noticeable result of a positive school and community relationship is its direct impact on classroom instruction. Connections with local organizations can help provide extended material resources to the classroom, social support for students and parents, and financial support to help teachers accomplish projects and goals that are otherwise unattainable with school resources. Capitalizing on help available from local businesses—like inviting experts in particular subject fields to the classroom—can enhance classroom instruction and address learning objectives that may be difficult for the teacher to accomplish (Fiore, 2002). Methods of using these community resources include guest speakers in the classroom, job shadowing, internship opportunities for students, developing service learning programs, and community service projects. All of these approaches enhance the existing curriculum and impact student learning by bringing expertise to the classroom and incorporating a variety of instructional methods to reach all students.

Using input from local businesses and organizations can also enhance the curriculum by providing a practical application of the course objectives. Workplace employees may have a better view of what type of knowledge and skills are necessary to succeed in the working world. Using community and industry guidance to develop teaching methods or activities brings a real-world perspective to the technology and engineering education curriculum that gives students an accurate view of the workplace. Providing an applicable education to students gives them the "knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to function effectively as citizens" (Westheimer & Kahne, 2002, p. 14). Bringing this type of real-world perspective to a curriculum has benefits for students in the classroom and, more importantly, when they enter the working world.

Creating and sustaining a positive school and community relationship not only helps teachers and students, but the school as a whole. When local organizations and businesses realize the willingness of the school to collaborate and interact, they are more likely to have a positive outlook on the role of the school in the community. Westheimer and Kahne (2002) describe the benefit of collaboration between school and community to be the encouragement of "outward-looking perspectives" in students and a "renewed focus on civics and citizenship." Involving students in community activities can also develop social creativity and produce active citizens that promote positive change (Banathy, 1993). If students can develop these positive attitudes and abilities, surrounding citizens and organizations are likely to take notice and realize that the school can be an invaluable resource to the community. Impacts on student learning that can be generated by a positive school and community relationship are listed by category in Figure 1.

It is clear that a positive relationship between the school and its surrounding community can greatly impact student learning. Teachers deliver enhanced instruction with a variety of strategies; students are provided with greater opportunities and develop better attitudes towards community involvement; the school gains a better reputation with its local citizens; and local businesses and organizations realize the potential of the educational institutions in the betterment of the community. However, developing this mutually beneficial relationship takes time and effort. The most important point to keep in mind is that all parties involved need to benefit in order to develop a strong, sustainable relationship that will have the greatest impact on student learning.

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Classroom Procedures

Use the following procedures and determinations of success to guide your efforts in developing a positive relationship between your school and the community. The following procedures are suggestions that sequentially build upon each other to provide the foundations for this type of relationship.

  1. At the onset of each school year or semester, connect with students and parents, describe your curriculum, and point out possible community connections.
  2. Discover possible connections that local businesses and organizations may have with your curriculum, and determine which of these can provide assistance that would positively impact student learning.
  3. Make visits to or establish contact with the parents, local businesses, and community organizations that could be of benefit to your instruction.
  4. Create and maintain a list of the contacts that demonstrate willingness to establish a relationship with the school.
  5. Plan and implement a community involvement activity that will be beneficial to all the parties involved.
  6. Demonstrate ways to show gratitude to the people who made your community relationship possible.
  7. Reflect on how well the collaborative activity impacted instruction and student learning.
  8. Apply feedback and reflection to improve future collaborations between the school program and community resources.

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Determinations of Success

As the process of developing a positive school and community relationship is initiated and moving forward, it is important to evaluate progress at each procedural step to make sure the end result will be as effective as possible. As you find connections between your curricular area and the local community, implement a collaboration activity and attempt to sustain the resulting relationship; use the table below to help determine if each particular procedure has been successful or not. For each step, you should clearly notice the evidence of successful completion. If success is not completely experienced or noticed for a particular procedure, use the further suggestions to help make your efforts more effective. These suggestions refer back to the Detailed Procedures Guide that explains each procedural step and provides a few examples of evidence.

Finally, the ultimate goal of establishing and sustaining a school and community relationship is to have a positive impact on student learning. At the end of any collaboration between your students and the parents, community businesses, and local organizations, several impacts on student learning and achievement should be noted. While they can be categorized into three major sections—enhanced instruction, curricular application, and community perception—there are many different ways these impacts can be noticed and documented in a learning environment. Some of these impacts are listed by category on page 23.

The process of developing a strong, sustainable relationship between your school, its families, and the surrounding community is not one that takes place in one week, a semester, or even a whole school year. In order to develop a relationship that will be lasting and effective, this process may take several years to complete. Keep in mind that if you do not achieve success in your initial attempts, it is important to keep trying and find other ways to develop this important collaborative relationship.

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References

Banathy, B. H. (1993). Systems design: A creative response to the current educational predicament. In C.M. Reigeluth, B.H. Banathy, & J.R. Olson (Eds.), Comprehensive systems design: A new educational technology (pp. 9-49). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

Fiore, D. J. (2002). School community relations. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Eye Education, Inc.

Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2003). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 158-176.

Westheimer, J. & Kahne, J. (2002). Education for action: Preparing youth for participatory democracy. Retrieved from http://democraticdialogue.com/DDpdfs/EducationForAction.pdf

 

Victor Stefan is a retired Technology and Engineering teacher from Ohio.

Ben Furse is in Educational Technology in North Carolina.

Jeremy V. Ernst is a Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Aaron C. Clark, DTE is a Professor at NC State University.

V. William DeLuca is Professor Emeritus at NC State University.

Daniel P. Kelly is an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University.

 

STEM Teacher Learning (STEMteacherlearning.com) provides state-of-the-art STEM professional development and continuing education (CEUs) for Technology and Engineering Education teachers. Visit this site to review the eighteen units researched and developed under a National Science Foundation-funded project to improve classroom instruction. STEM Teacher Learning provides these NSF-researched units to local school districts and teachers using cloud-based, self-paced learning and certifies completion. Contact training@stemteacherlearning.com for more information.