Academic-community Partnerships for Interprofessional Service Learning
Interprofessional service learning (IPSL) is one strategy to engage students in meaningful work that allows them to practice teamwork skills, learn cultural humility, and collaborate with community partners. Partnerships with community organizations are essential to developing and sustaining IPSL experiences. In 2020, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) initiated the first year of Collaborative Practice I (CPI), a two-semester-long, service-learning, interprofessional education course. This poster describes how the CWRU faculty and staff engaged community partner organizations, identified service learning projects, and integrated student and partner feedback into course development and revisions from 2020 to 2023.
Students from eight to nine different health and social work professional programs participate in CPI. The students are placed into interprofessional teams and partnered with an organization to complete a partner-identified project focused on health and wellbeing. The projects vary because the type of work required to meet partner organization needs is broad. At least one representative from the organization is designated as the project's main point of contact or “champion.” CPI faculty and staff provide ongoing support to both champions and students over the course of the academic year. Champion and student feedback was collected each year and used to refine the course to improve the experience for all stakeholders.
In the first year of CPI, 435 students from nine programs on 72 teams partnered with 40 organizations to complete 59 projects. In its third year in 2023, CPI grew to include 532 students, 78 teams, 66 organizations, and 75 projects. Feedback from students and champions was incorporated to develop more structure for the project management, create a champion advisory group, improve champion support, and provide more opportunities for partner organizations to network with each other, among other changes.
Partner organization and student input are essential for developing quality IPSL projects and experiences. When planning IPSL, educators must balance the needs of partner organizations and the learning needs of students. These needs are not mutually exclusive as the changes that help improve student learning may also improve the quality of the project that the student teams provide to community organizations.
The recruitment and relationship building with partners for CPI began before course implementation and is a year-round, continuous improvement process. The value of CPI to partners extends beyond the projects as community organizations appreciate the networking opportunities and connections to other resources we are developing through this experience.