Engaging Learners with Communities

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Engaged learning as an area of expertise and support for faculty was incorporated into the portfolio of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in September 2015. As director of engaged learning, Vialla Hartfield-Méndez has worked to re-define this role within the context of the CFDE, focusing especially on pedagogical approaches and strategies, but also broadening the spectrum of what is considered “community engaged” teaching and learning. Thus, the CFDE has provided an engaged learning grant program in support of courses and other teaching/learning with direct connections to communities in Atlanta and even other areas.  

At the same time, through collaboration with the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard and national institutes of Imagining America, we have explored deeply the practice of learning from community settings and bringing pedagogical strategies developed in community-based organizations into the academy.  

Pedagogical strategies from communities

Two examples of such strategies are the use of story circles (through the Emory Storytelling Project), and collaboration with Professor Doris Sommer from Harvard on Pre-Texts workshops. Pre-Texts is a highly flexible train-the-trainers program with basic elements that were developed in community settings in Latin America. Pre-Texts starts with a text, invites people to engage with the text through other art forms, and has a structure for reflection. It is a very simple protocol, developed initially as a strategy for civic engagement in the K-12 setting, but it is applicable in many different contexts, including the university classroom. 

At Emory, a number of faculty are experimenting with this pedagogical approach in their courses, both as a way to engage their students with many different kinds of texts, but also as a way to prepare students to work in community contexts. 

Pre-Texts workshops will be offered throughout this year. We are excited to announce that the next one will be offered in collaboration with one of Emory’s most important community partners, the Latin American Association, on Saturday, September 24 from 2-6pm at the LAA. There are a few slots available for Emory representatives. 

If you are interested in this workshop or future workshops, please contact the graduate assistant for engaged learning, Johannes Kleiner at jkleine@emory.edu.

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