A. Pride

Columbia College Chicago (UNITED STATES)
The role of community-based outreach teaching has grown as a necessary supplement for the decay in public education. From my own twenty-plus years of experience in this discipline, I have seen the outcomes and impact of outreach teaching on otherwise under-performing students. The positive result of outreach programs has been documented through studies; some of this information will be presented in this proposed paper.

Additionally, using anecdotal references to curriculum I have designed and implemented, and research, I will address the following:
• A good partnership makes for an excellent collaboration, but where to begin?
• Creating a pedagogical approach to outreach teaching that respects the partnership while remaining student-centered
• What happens when the dream on paper doesn’t match the challenges of teaching? Modifying your approach to suit the needs of your students
• Methods of program assessment

Good partnerships for outreach initiatives are working relationships that generally share these common values: a mission statement with similar goals, a well-articulated purpose, and mutual respect. The mission of any organization, no matter the size, is a manifesto that reveals its heart. Commonalities in mission statements among organizations considering partnering is no less important than finding a potential mate on the dating circuit who “gets you” because of shared values. This brings to mind one meeting experience I had as Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. I was attending a community-centered activity organized to introduce College department representatives to community organization heads who were prospecting for outreach partnerships. A form of “speed-dating” was the methodology used to determine potential successes; timed conversations were had between representing agents to discuss their respective ideals, goals, etc. What began as a brief conversation between myself and Music Theatre Workshop resulted in the program “Teens Together”; the curriculum fused writing exercises and theatre performance to serve underprivileged teenagers. The self-select program ran for 11 years.

During its many cycles, Teens Together was modified for various reasons. In some instances, programmatic changes were required because of the population of youth participants, or the strengths, weaknesses and training of the teachers assigned in a given year. It is critical to revisit the program’s goals and outcomes, periodically, and determine how to address needed changes with a cautiousness that will respect the program’s purpose. This is not always an easy navigation. This paper will articulate important considerations, depending upon the nature of the changes being instituted.

Assessment tools are essential to determine what’s effectively working in an outreach program, and what isn’t. There are many options available to collect this data. One approach is the striking comparative of evaluations administered to participants at the beginning of the program with those given at its completion. This can serve as a narrative that speaks to many aspects of the program, but most pointedly, it can sometimes evidence to organizers the extent to which goals and objectives are being met.
Upon conclusion of this proposed paper, readers will be armed with information for an effective collaboration, and recommended sources to assist in program viability.