Research to Practice Brief
Improving Secondary Education and Transition Services through Research
April 2005 • Vol. 4, Issue 1
Transition Planning: Community Mapping as a Tool for Teachers and Students
By Kate Tindle, Pam Leconte, LaVerne Buchanan, and Juliana M. Taymans
Community mapping is a tool grounded in a school-to-careers research base
that can aid educators’ efforts in matching students’ transition
needs with community assets. It is also a tool that can build teachers’
knowledge and awareness of community assets to create more effective transition
plans. Additionally, it is an instructional activity that helps students explore
organizations as well as career opportunities in their community. Community
mapping can be a geographical mapping of a target community (concrete mapping)
or an abstract mapping of assets or services within a target community (abstract
mapping). Either way, it is a contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) approach
that can acquaint teachers with the target community’s culture, resources,
transition assets, and needs.
Community Mapping is Grounded in Research and Theory
Contextualized teaching and learning is an instructional framework that is
an outgrowth of school-to-careers theory and research (Sears & Hersh, 1998).
Contextualized teaching is teaching that enables learning in which pupils
employ their academic understandings and abilities in a variety of in-school
and out-of-school contexts to solve simulated or real world problems, both
alone and in various group structures.…Learning through and in these
kinds of activities is commonly characterized as problem-based, self-regulated,
occurring in a variety of contexts, involving teams or learning groups, and
responsible to a host of diverse needs and interests (p. 4).
Six attributes of CTL frame effective teaching and learning as:
- using a problem-based approach;
- occurring in multiple contexts;
- fostering self-regulation;
- supporting an understanding students’ diverse life contexts;
- employing authentic methods of assessment; and
- utilizing interdependent working groups.
CTL uses a problem-based approach to teaching and learning. When
students engage in authentic problem-solving they define and research problems,
usually collaboratively. Community mapping, most effective when done in groups
of three or four students, engages them collaboratively.
CTL occurs in multiple contexts. How a person learns a particular
set of knowledge and skills and the situation in which a person learns are fundamental
to lasting learning (Borko & Putnam, 1998). Community mapping encourages
both teachers and students to leave the school walls and incorporate the community
into their instructional experiences.
CTL helps foster self-regulation in students. Effective teaching
and transition planning must focus on determining and meeting the needs and
developing the capacities of each learner. CTL helps students monitor and direct
their own learning. Community mapping can develop students’ abilities
to analyze their own thinking habits and apply a repertoire of strategies for
learning, evaluating, and directing their own efforts toward increased learning.
These are essential transition skills.
CTL supports an understanding of students’ diverse life contexts.
Learners have distinctive perspectives evolving from their personal history,
environment, interests, beliefs, goals, and ways of thinking (Sears & Hersh,
1998). Community mapping supports teachers’ understanding of learners’
diverse life contexts.
CTL employs authentic methods of assessment. Instruction that is contextually
oriented treats assessment as an ongoing activity, continually informing both
teacher and student. Multiple sources of evidence, including community mapping,
are collected over time and in several contexts.
CTL utilizes interdependent learning. Learning is a social process
that is enhanced when learners have opportunities to interact with others on
instructional activities (Vygotsky, 1978). CTL designs experiences so that students
learn from each other. Through community mapping individuals have an opportunity
to gain perspective and think reflectively, which may foster social and moral
development and self-esteem. .
Community Mapping: A Teacher’s Transition Tool
Community mapping is an effective professional development activity for all
types of teachers who use a CTL approach. Mapping can acquaint teachers with
the target community’s culture, resources, transition assets, and needs.
Community mapping is best done in small groups of three or four students whenever
possible to ensure a variety of perspectives and insights.
When educators engage in community mapping, they explore such things as resources,
housing, businesses, social-service providers, recreational facilities, religious
institutions, neighborhood history, and public opinion about local issues. For
transition planners, the objective of the exploration is to develop baseline
knowledge about the community’s current issues and assets that will become
an intrinsic part of their transition planning. This experience also allows
teachers to explore career opportunities that may be relevant to their students’
goals and interests.
As a geographical activity, concrete mapping may resemble a “scavenger
hunt.” The mapping facilitator has “staked out” several small,
appropriate areas to walk through that might yield rich results. Participants
then visit one of those “staked-out” areas of the target community
and talk to people on the streets and in community businesses and resource centers
about their experiences and history in the community. They also collect appropriate
artifacts and take pictures. If the group is large enough it should be divided
into groups of three or four, and each group then visits a different area of
the target community. There are roles and responsibilities for each group member
(see Table 1, below) and objectives to accomplish, but every group member is
responsible for observing, talking, and questioning people and deciding where
to visit and what is important.
Table 1. Sample Roles and Responsibilities in
||Hands out materials, tells everyone what to do, keeps group on task, guides
group using highlighted map
||Initially has all materials to hand out, has map and clipboard to guide
||Keeps track of all places visited, draws draft map later used in presentation
||Paper for making new map, clipboard
||Uses surveys to tabulate housing, businesses, etc.
|Takes observational notes of people and places, keeps track of photos
||Clipboard, note paper, photo record sheet
||Takes 8-10 significant photos, tells note-taker number of photo, location,
||Collects artifacts that exemplify community (flyers, brochures, business
cards, etc.), tells note-taker what is collected, where, and importance
||Bag for collection
||Looks for historical or significant markers--cornerstones, information
on statuary or building--to make a rubbing from, aids tabulator in counting
||Chart paper and crayons
|Note: For further explanation of the community mapping
process, see Recommended Resources.
This can be daunting to some educators—wandering around with clipboards
and digital cameras in hand, talking to strangers. It can also be daunting to
strangers if they are not approached appropriately. An opening sentence, such
as “We’re educators from [name of school] and are trying to find
out more about the community,” helps puts both the educators and the people
they approach at ease.
The concrete mapping of a community typically takes up to three hours. When
mapping is completed, educators reconvene to share any findings about transition
assets and issues among the group or discuss discernable patterns before continuing
in-depth research of the community’s potential role in transition planning.
The power in a concrete mapping experience is that educators personally interact
with community members, which inevitably enhances both educators’ knowledge
of the community and community members’ knowledge of the school. This
can also be an initial step in developing relationships that involve community
organizations in working more directly with school programs.
In abstract mapping, the process of geographic or concrete mapping is modified,
because instead of physically walking through the community, teachers find out
about assets abstractly through Internet research, telephone calls, and some
interpersonal visits. Teachers can work in teams to map assets and services
by dividing the community into targeted areas or by types of resources. If a
facilitator is preparing educators for mapping activities, support for the team’s
efforts can be accomplished by providing such things as categories of assets
to survey, sample focus questions to collect pertinent data, identification
of roles and responsibilities for team members, and a timetable to complete
The goal in abstract mapping is to learn as much as possible about a variety
of community assets and services. Everyone gathers data to create “transition
resource books” by combining team members' collected artifacts such as
brochures or flyers with their analysis about a community’s assets and
services. Each member receives a copy of the transition resource book, which
includes all research and can be updated each year by participants. Through
the process of abstract mapping, teachers initiate relationships between school
and community to support students’ needs through conversations with potential
transition resource agencies. Educators explore how the target community’s
assets and services can be accessed by their students.
As educators research and analyze community resources, they develop an understanding
of and appreciation for the richness of diverse cultures within the community.
They may also discover barriers such as a lack of transportation or a limited
range of community-based organizations, which may have implications for transition
planning. The most important outcome of abstract mapping is the improved instruction
that results from an increased knowledge of students’ needs and available
resources as well as the ability to combine them in appropriate ways.
Community Mapping: A Student’s Transition Tool
Once teachers are familiar with the mapping process, their students can also
engage in mapping of transition resources. Just as educators can walk a target
area to look for potential transition partners, students, too, can explore community
resources that will support their individual transition goals. For example,
mapping can be planned around learners’ career interests. In one situation,
several students were interested in professional football careers. A mapping
activity took place at a professional football stadium where learners interviewed,
collected information about, and photographed people performing a variety of
jobs: accounting, retail sales/marketing, public relations, and athletic training.
The teacher’s role is to facilitate the mapping experience—setting
up necessary interviews; obtaining permission to visit a site; and preparing
students to ask questions, use digital cameras, and collect relevant data. The
students also assume roles within their group so that everyone has responsibilities
that contribute to learning more about what a community has to offer them as
they begin to monitor their own needs. The culminating activity is an information-sharing
presentation for all students. This presentation is a form of authentic assessment
where students demonstrate what they have learned.
Examples of Community Mapping
Two community mapping examples demonstrate how this activity can be incorporated
into a variety of school programs.
Example 1. A teacher is presenting a unit on neighborhoods
in a ninth grade social studies/history class. She wants her students to learn
about the Shaw District neighborhood in Washington, DC. A historical perspective
will enable her students to explore the current causes and effects of the area’s
gentrification/revitalization. After students have researched the Shaw District’s
history they are ready to learn about the community firsthand. The teacher uses
community mapping to engage her students in activities. For instance she assigns
students to prepare to talk with people in community social-service organizations
by researching the organizations’ missions and services. She has students
practice with digital cameras so that they can take pictures of buildings and
housing to compare with pictures from their historical research. The students
also develop interview questions that they practice by role-playing so they
are comfortable interviewing community members who have lived through the changes
over the last 20 years. Students then analyze this data to determine cause and
effect in the changing community, predict the future of the community, and explore
roles they might play as young adults in the community.
Example 2. Teachers assigned to community-based classes
for students ages 18-21 incorporate community-mapping instruction into their
life-skills curriculum. After introducing the concept of accessing the community
and learning about its resources, teachers present the community-mapping process
to students. A student may volunteer or be selected by the teacher or class
to have his or her neighborhood mapped. This student becomes the lead student.
Prior to the designated day for visiting the community, the teachers and students
discuss roles and responsibilities. The lead student is generally the mapper
and shares scouting responsibilities with the teacher. On the appointed day,
students meet at the school and travel together to the student’s home
or meet at a designed place in the community. Together the class maps the key
places (i.e., bus stop, shopping areas, recreation areas, professional offices),
locates public transportation stops and collects schedules, conducts job development
activities (i.e., cold-calling, getting applications), and gathers other artifacts.
Eating lunch in a restaurant is included in the community experience, and the
lead student is responsible for selecting the restaurant. During lunch the students
discuss the mapping experience and findings and turn all artifacts over to the
lead student. The lead student is responsible for putting the materials together
for a class presentation.
Community mapping creates a useful, exciting product for teachers, students,
and community members. The creative aspects of community mapping can energize
teachers; they can begin to think differently about assessment, transition planning,
and teaching. They become more engaged in their students’ communities
and begin to share a common knowledge-base with students. Community mapping,
too, can motivate students and stimulate increased interest in learning. It
can also help them expand their view of the community and its members. Students
gain a connection with businesses and services with which they might not typically
connect. Finally, community mapping engages community members in school programs
and allows them to view students and teachers more personally. It can also afford
opportunities for employers to get to know and consider potential employees.
Often it is difficult to know what a community has to offer students and also
what the community is willing to offer. Conversely, it is often difficult for
community organizations and businesses to be aware of what young people need
and what they bring to the table. Through the use of community mapping, transition
planning becomes focused on matching students with community needs in such a
way that relationships are forged, fostered, and updated, while keeping transition
planning a meaningful, two-way process with successful outcomes.
Authors Juliana Taymans, Pam Leconte, and Kate Tindle are with The George
Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development. LaVerne
Buchanan is with TransCen, Inc.
Borko, H., & Putnam, R. T. (1998). The role of context in teacher learning
and teacher education. In 1998 Contextual teaching and learning design conference
proceedings: Preparing teachers to enhance student success in and beyond school.
Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University, College of Education, Center on
Education for Training and Employment. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
Sears, S., & Hersh, S. (1998). Contextual teaching and learning: An overview
of the project. In 1998 Contextual teaching and learning design conference
proceedings: Preparing teachers to enhance student success in and beyond school.
Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University, College of Education, Center on Education
for Training and Employment.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of psychological
processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Academy for Educational Development/Center for Youth Development and Policy
Resource Mapping: A Strategy for Promoting Successful Transition for Youth with
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
Schools Accountable Toolkit
Annie E. Casey Foundation
http://www.aecf.org/upload/PublicationFiles/holding%20schools.pdf (714 KB, 78 pp)
the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity
Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State
the Whos, Whats, and Whys of Community Development and Community Building: A
10-Minute Self-Assessment Tool
The Forum for Youth Investment
http://www.forumfyi.org/Files/mappingwhosp2-pfv.pdf (16 KB, 1 pg)
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This report was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H326J000005). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.
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