Each semester University of Iowa students in nearly every discipline step out of the classroom and into Iowa communities to apply theoretical coursework to real-world projects.

Working with community members offers a much different experience from the traditional classroom environment, for both students and faculty. But, there is a balance within community-engaged learning that needs to be achieved.

In order to maximize success, faculty often face challenges between managing community partner expectations and allowing students the flexibility they need to achieve growth and success.

“The biggest challenge that I face every year is in designing a syllabus that is flexible and adaptable to each project and allows students space to develop their thoughts and ideas along with community partners,” said Lindsay Mattock, assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Science.

Mattock partnered with the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) for three projects and was one of eight University of Iowa faculty who attended the most recent Engaged Faculty Institute.

“The Engaged Faculty Institute was particularly useful, providing an opportunity to learn from other faculty and review pedagogical strategies that have worked for others in the classroom. I have implemented some of the ideas that were discussed during the Institute into my syllabus,” Mattock said.

The annual Engaged Faculty Institute, sponsored by Iowa Campus Compact in partnership with OCE, connected faculty from the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and many private colleges across the state with the goal of helping guide and inform best practices for pedagogical development.

Over the course of both days, attendees received training on how to incorporate service learning and community engagement activities into their courses, so activities align with course learning goals. Faculty also received information on how to enhance student growth and civic engagement, and strategies for working with and strengthening communities.

One of the greatest benefits of the Engaged Faculty Institute was that faculty could interact and share best practices with each other.
“[This] was the first pedagogical workshop I’ve done that was focused exclusively on community engagement,” Mattock said. “I thought it was very useful, sitting at a table with other faculty. The courses we were teaching complemented each other well and we were able to have deep conversations."