The success of MacEngaged largely depends on interest and enthusiasm generated by its facilitators (Instructors, Teaching Assistants, & Student Mentors) with a focus on high quality student-centered interactions.
The formula for MacEngaged requires the selection of a few key ingredients. These are described below in a ‘nutshell’ and outlined in detail in other sections of this website.
The first step is to assemble the MacEngaged team, which will include the instructor(s), teaching assistants (T.A., if available), and senior peer-mentors.
It is crucial to take time (in class) to explain and discuss the purpose of community-engaged education and its benefits to all involved (including the instructor). It might be worthwhile to read this review paper by a group at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) before the first class.
Formation of Student Groups
Groups could be organized by the Instructor/T.A. through random assignment or by asking students to create them on their own. The Basadur profile might be useful in assigning specific students to individual groups.
Physical Space for Group Work
Where will students meet to carry out group work? The ideal scenario would be during a tutorial hour in a room with movable furniture. It is also possible to hold group meetings in a traditional lecture hall; students will simply have to get creative and face each other (this format is doable!)
Students will require time either in class or during tutorial to meet with peer mentors on a weekly basis. Check-ins establish routine and (hopefully) create accountability.
One major challenge with group work is social loafing (students who contribute minimally to the project and wait for others to deliver). Team members can use the accountability matrix to keep track of each assigned task and its completion. This matrix must be completed at each group meeting. At the same time, each group member should submit an assessment of his or her peers on a monthly basis.
In order for students to gain maximum benefit from this experience, they must reflect on their journey through a metacognitive process that will help them gain insight into themselves, their intellectual development, and the benefit of their work to others. If you are on McMaster Campus, student learning-goals, reflections, and project developments can be catalogued through the use of a digital Learning Portfolio (LP) administered through Avenue to Learn. If you don’t have access to an electronic portfolio, you could ask students to create a blog, contribute to an online discussion board through your online class portal (e.g. Blackboard), or provide a hard-copy reflection.
The element of competition can make for an exciting semester! At the end of term, student teams have the option to write a brief description of their project and how it has benefited their targeted community of service for a ‘prize’ that contributes to their professional development. The MacEngaged team narrows the list to five finalists who deliver short presentations to the class that then selects a winning group.
Selecting the ‘prize’ requires creativity by the MacEngaged team. In Psych 2NF3 (Basic & Clinical Neuroscience) the prize is an invitation to have lunch with Dr. Patrick Deane.