Teaching community engagement to students from 29 disciplines

Online studying

(Photo: Eungyo Seo)

Completing this course has made me become more active within my own community. I have taken up netball coaching as well as volunteering at the local primary school. (Student from Engaging Communities: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives)

As a lecturer I hope that I make a difference to my students and it’s always encouraging when I hear that students have gained something from their study.

There’s a limit to how much can be covered in one semester of a stand-alone subject, so when I developed an online elective on engaging communities, I decided I would focus on inspiring students to think about how community engagement could be relevant to their work rather than involving them in a critical analysis of working with communities. While I emphasise a principled approach to community engagement, the focus is on the practice of community engagement in a range of settings.

Since the subject was first offered in Semester 2, 2008, 1186 students from 29 different disciplines and 52 different degrees have done the course. Most students come from disciplines connected to human service delivery (e.g., teaching, allied health, nursing, social work and development studies) but there is a small but steady stream of students from a range of other disciplines (e.g., business and commerce, construction management, communications and science). The full range of disciplines is below.

  • Teaching: 322 students
  • Medical Radiation Science: 157 students
  • Social Work : 102 students
  • Nursing : 90 students
  • Development Studies: 83 students
  • Occupational Therapy: 75 students
  • Speech Pathology: 58 students
  • Nutrition and Dietetics: 33 students
  • Business and Commerce: 31 students
  • Construction Management: 29 students
  • Oral Health : 27 students
  • Social Science: 27 students
  • Physiotherapy: 26 students
  • Communication: 20 students
  • Psychology: 20 students
  • Environmental Science & Management: 19 students
  • Arts: 16 students
  • Science: 16 students
  • Food Science & Human Nutrition: 7 students
  • Medicine: 5 students
  • Biomedical Science: 4 students
  • Information Tech: 4 students
  • Architecture: 3 students
  • Engineering: 3 students
  • Non award: 3 students
  • Exercise & Sport Science: 2 students
  • Podiatry: 2 students
  • Biotechnology: 1 student
  • Languages: 1 student

Feedback from the course is positive so, despite it being online, students appear to be gaining something from their study of engaging communities. I’m sure that part of it’s value is they interact with students and resources from a range of disciplines.

I also benefit from the variety of students because I am forced to think about the relevance of community engagement in a range of contexts. It certainly helps deepen my understanding of working with communities and encourages me to read widely.

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Ethics and community engagement
  2. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  3. What are social models of health?
  4. Making parents feel welcome in schools
  5. Playgroups as a foundation for working with hard to reach families
  6. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Being an academic, Facilitation & teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teaching community engagement to students from 29 disciplines

  1. Karthik says:

    Many faculty begin community engagement with a pilot project. In this design, students have the option to become involved in the community-based project. A portion of the normal coursework is substituted by the community-based component.


  2. cbecker53 says:

    How important for students to think about the importance of engaging the community! Yes, we do think of it as intrinsic to some fields, as you say (and my field of librarianship is top among those), but how wonderful that students in other fields are embracing the concept. After all, isn’t the “Community” everyone?

    Liked by 2 people

I'd love to hear what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.