One of JEP's main goals is to provide a quality service-learning program that will most effectively meet the needs of both the university faculty and students and our community partners. Over the years, we have found that the key to our success is training, training, and training.
At JEP, our student employees are called Program Assistants or PAs. Each PA is responsible for a certain department or a program. The PAs are also the reason JEP can place such large numbers of university students in community sites. Their work is crucial to the quality of the JEP program.
The key to students' success in the field is quality training and preparation...and this process begins before the first student signs up for participation in JEP. It starts with training of our Program Assistants (PAs).
Each year, the entire JEP staff goes on a three-day training retreat. New PAs are trained by full time staff and veteran Program Assistants on the complexities of operating a quality service-learning program.
Contents of Student Employee Training:
Below is a description of the sessions presented at our annual training retreat. You will notice the experiential nature of the sessions. New Program Assistants are given instruction then asked to practice what they learned.
JEP - E is for Education - In this session, Tammy Anderson and Susan Harris explains JEP's mission, organizationally, where we are within the university, service-learning pedagogy, our philosophy of partnering with our community sites.
Trip down the road - Brenda Pesante, Coordinator of Community Programs, our liaison with the community sites, has drawn (on butcher paper) a long road, which symbolizes the entire semester and the important events that occur, i.e. sign ups, student trainings, evaluations delivered to professors. This gives new PAs a glimpse of what the semester looks like from start to finish.
Break into Families - During this time, Tammy Anderson takes each new PA and places them in a family with a couple of veteran PAs and a full time staff member. These families teach the new PA the art of recruiting professors and students, and making class presentations. We like to have old PAs teach the new ones. They develop mentoring relationships that work well throughout the semester.
Family Skits - Each family assists their new PA in role playing their first call to a professor, the visit with professors to discuss JEP, and a classroom presentation to introduce JEP to students.
Trip down the road - We cover what happened on the first day and what will be covered on day two.
Sign-ups - We describe the sign-up procedure, recreate the sign-up table with actual paperwork included, and have new PAs go through the process of signing up students (anxiously played by veteran PAs and staff)
Pick-ups - During this session, we discuss the pick up procedure where JEP participants return to the JEP House to pick up their assignments, get maps to the community placement, and other info.
Reflection - Reflection is very important to the entire experience of service-learning. All students participating in JEP are required to submit weekly journals or reflective responses (thought questions which parallel the professor's syllabus). Our PAs must be able to objectively read these and make substantive comments. In this session, we give samples of past submissions (names removed, of course), and ask new PAs to read and evaluate them. This leads to great discussions as veteran PAs chime in with their thoughts.
Training Academy - Two veteran PAs show a video of a student who was not well trained for their assignment as a mentor. After the film, new PAs are asked to pick out what went wrong and discuss the importance of a well designed training session. Then they are given a packet of sample materials they can use to develop their own training session.
Training Part II - Each new PA will take time to design their training and then offer their training session to their family (remember the families described earlier?)
Debrief Training - The PA Coordinator and Tammy Anderson lead a discussion of what happened at the trainings, where the trouble spots were and what was great? Family member's comments are most helpful. We also briefly discuss the purpose of mid-semester training sessions, which are useful for sharing among student participants.
Keeping it together - JEP maintains a computer file of all student participants, their department, professor, community placement, etc. Jameson Stalanthas Yu, our Office Technology Coordinator, discusses the importance of monitoring printouts. (The smallest mistake can cause big problems). The PA Coordinator gives sample forms used to help PAs keep good records of students' academic work.
Schools and Agencies - Brenda Pesante, and the Placement Coordinator discuss all JEP community partners' sites.
Problem-Solving - New PAs are given examples of typical problems that come up during the semester and asked to explain how they would handle the situation. All staff members give feedback.
IBM - Jackie Mitchell, Office Manager sends new PAs on a journey through a typical day at the JEP House, offering various "real life" scenarios. The aim here is to help new PAs get acclimated to life at the JEP House which is a very comfortable, easy-going place (except during hectic times like sign-up and trainings). Sometimes it is easy to become too lax in such an environment...so in this session we role play scenarios that remind PAs that we might not be a big corporation like IBM but we do expect professionalism at all times.
Phone Training - USC has a somewhat complicated telephone system. Everyone must be trained.
Caravan to JEP Sites - Each PA should know where our community sites are located. The full time staff takes them to visit each site and meet the JEP Coordinator for that site. (the JEP Coordinator is a member of that site's staff who is the contact for JEP students)
Quality training is key to the success of students participating in the JEP program. Students are required to attend two mandatory training sessions, one prior to starting the community assignment and one three weeks after the assignment begins. Each training session is 1 1/2 hours in length.
The following is a sample outline of a typical student training session.
Introduction - PA introduces him/herself and begins with an ice breaker to get students relaxed and build rapport.
Description of JEP - PA discusses JEP's philosophy and program options.
Roles - PA describes their role as educational facilitator, gentle supporter, and supervisor as well as the students' role and responsibilities.
JEP as an Academic Program - PA leads a discussion about service-learning. Students are challenged to consider why professors use this option to augment classroom learning?
Effective Activities - Sample activities are discussed and hand outs are made available.
How to be an effective volunteer - Real life situations are distributed either to each student of groups of students. They read over the scenarios and tell how they would handle them.
Observation vs. Interpretation - Students look at a picture and list ten characteristics that they see. Then the PA asks them to look back and decide if the ten were observations or interpretations. The difference between the two and how that difference effects student learning in the field are discussed. We also use photo prompts commenting on various situations and have students draw conclusions.
Reflection - The importance of journals, lesson plans and reflective responses is stressed. The conversation also includes a discussion of the required end-of-the-semester analytical paper.
Evaluation - The Program Assistant describes the evaluation process and criteria students are asked to sign contracts that spell out their obligations.
JEP Logistics - PAs cover a number of site-related issues:
- Signing in & out at the site
- Absences (make up slips)
- Professionalism (dress & behavior)
- Securing resources
- JEP Xeroxing policy
Tour of the JEP House - PAs take students on a tour showing them their mailboxes, the PA sign in board, and the central files where their reflective work will be returned.
Approximately three weeks after students begin their community assignment, they return the JEP House to meet with their Program Assistants and other students. These sessions are really more sharing meetings rather than the traditional training sessions. Students have the opportunity to discuss what is happening at their site, share positive and negative situations, and learn from each other.