Learning from past community engagement successes and failures is crucial. While these concepts are powerful, not all may apply to any one project. But overall the more employed the better. Our Drive-based guides include a checklist for assessment.

Ways to Maximize Quality Outcomes

Learners have personal interest in the topic and activities
To maximize relevance, activities align with learners' cultural experiences (e.g., voice in political decision-making)
There is regular attention to creating a meaningful experience for all involved (e.g., relating actions to others' or Global Goals for Sustainable Development)
Participants approach each step with care and consciousness (including about why the step is important for learning, the community, or both)
Learners have and use opportunities to
  • Explore and ask questions
    • Listen, process, summarize, and retain useful information
      • Observe others' and their own actions
        • Work independently, in pairs, and in groups
          • Identify and apply their skills and talents
            • Get help when needed
              • Solve problems step-by-step
                • Make adjustments based on new information or setbacks

                The experience builds appreciation of diversity and mutual respect for all participants
                Learners take leading or active roles to maximize personal meaning and growth (e.g., selecting a topic, site, product design, or presentation content)
                Reflection occurs during each step so learners think critically about their actions and observations
                For class projects or activities all students have opportunities to actively participate and apply special skills or interests
                Academic content informs students about various dimensions of the project
                • Skills to be applied or developed through activities
                  • Nature of the work to be performed
                    • Characteristics of quality reflection and evaluation (with examples and practice opportunities)
                      • Broader issues related to the project (e.g., population characteristics and contexts like power structures and history)
                      Project collaborators learn and view one another as equal colleagues in the process (vs. treating a group as needy)
                      Community representatives are involved throughout (e.g., in initial research and planning, guest lectures, site visits, project evaluation, etc.)
                      Learners, educators, and community partners understand and commit to specific roles and responsibilities with a checklist or similar method
                      There is frequent sharing (via social media or other means) to build and maintain school and public awareness throughout
                      Collaboration between students, teachers, and community members is open and thoughtful to promote win-win outcomes
                      • Needs assessment includes people and groups with relevant knowledge and experience (community leaders, public service offices, orgs, other)
                        • All are aware of any past miscommunication or conflict between the school and neighbors and design the project to effectively prevent them
                          • All show flexibility designing parameters to balance academic development and addressing community needs (which may not align perfectly)
                            • Participants share expectations for the collaboration and check for possible conflicts or challenges for meeting them

                            The project follows IRB guidelines (where applicable, to ensure respect and just treatment for community members)
                            Partners are willing to collaborate, communicate, and provide necessary resources to effectively work with learners
                            Partners can provide experiences with the potential to meet academic and civic learning objectives
                            Site locations (if outside of school) are safe and accessible for students
                            Partners have positive local reputations and ideally successful experience working with learners, especially on similar or ongoing projects
                            There is adequate information available (e.g., online, through interviewing, other) to make informed decisions about the workability of partner relationships
                            Goals promote academic content integration and mutually beneficial community engagement
                            Objectives are attainable and appropriate based on learner skill levels, time commitments, and project scope/duration
                            Fundraising efforts (where applicable) are based on a target amount to raise and plan for doing so
                            If partnering with an organization, site orientation includes learning about community members' lives, the org's mission and activities, and specific learner tasks
                            Site visits and other activity scheduling promote efficient use of participants' time as part of a total project timeline
                            The amount of planned student community activity time is sufficient to meet learning objectives
                            Learners have previously demonstrated necessary skills or receive training in them
                            • Active learning (reinforced via teacher modeling and practiced in classroom settings before community ones)
                              • Working with a diverse community (e.g., through research and discussion of potential diversity issues in the field)
                                • Writing effectively in papers or in journals (e.g., by reading high-quality examples of each)
                                  • Recognizing significant events or information in a community setting and reflecting on them
                                    • Self-assessment and evaluation, including creating or using rubrics
                                      • Special skills (e.g., making quality videos if involved)
                                        • Recognizing and avoiding potential ethical issues (e.g., replacing stereotypes with greater understanding)
                                        On-site activities relate to an organization's mission (if involved)
                                        Learners alert and discuss with advisor(s) and community reps any possible deviations from the plan in advance, as well as recording them
                                        Classroom learning complements and reinforces civic lessons from the community experience (e.g., by using group activities)
                                        Community engagement activities promote learning course content at deeper levels than otherwise likely
                                        Involves problem solving, critical thinking, analysis, applying concepts, putting experiences in greater context, or theorizing
                                        Journaling format(s) match learning styles and abilities
                                        Includes self-assessment - students assess how effectively they met the learning and community objectives of the course, ideally throughout the process
                                        Is frequent enough to "take the temperature" throughout to ensure students have competencies, are staying on task, etc.
                                        Advisor responses are nonjudgmental, appreciative of what's being revealed or discovered, and honest
                                        Involves problem solving, critical thinking, analysis, or applying concepts
                                        Reflects or compliments learner abilities and knowledge (vs. requiring significant special training time)
                                        Is useful to the community, directly or by supplementing a partner organization's efforts
                                        Is made public (e.g., published) if possible
                                        Audiences are as inclusive as possible
                                        Community partners are present for the final presenation, and results are shared publicly
                                        Promotes offshoot projects addressing the same or a similar community need (e.g., by sharing ideas for continued work)
                                        All involved in the project have opportunities to provide feedback
                                        Formative assessment (during the process)
                                        • Is based on regular progress reports where appropriate
                                          • Promotes identifying and addressing any issues to enhance success

                                          Summative assessment (at the conclusion)
                                          • Assesses project impacts and elicits ideas for improving future projects
                                            • Utilizes multiple feedback formats (e.g., class discussions, community partner surveys)

                                            Learners are involved in developing the rubric or other means of evaluation
                                            Publicly celebrating student and community achievements (and the process) leaves people feeling acknowledged and attracts interest, including from media
                                            Publishing results (and adding them to a 3Levels.org project database, once available) allows others to learn from them or add to the work
                                            School-community relationships grow via multiple projects addressing given needs, ideally with different learners and advisors over time
                                            Checkoway B and Aldana A. Four forms of youth civic engagement for diverse democracy. Children and Youth Services Review 35 (2013) 1894–1899
                                            Checkoway B and Aldana A. Four forms of youth civic engagement for diverse democracy. Children and Youth Services Review 35 (2013) 1894–1899.