The intent of the plan described here is to be proactive in providing information to participants and host families to reduce conflicts. When problems arise procedures should be in place to focus on the learning opportunities inherent in the situation. Finally, a number of steps should be taken in advance to be able to respond promptly to support issues.
The AFS Learning Objectives are a key component in defining the AFS Mission to provide an intercultural learning experience. Further the CSIET guidelines state, "The organization sponsoring the program shall have clearly established goals and learning objectives to fulfill the educational purposes of its programs."
AFS Educational Goals and Learning Objectives include:
- Maintaining a family placement
- Doing well at school
- Engaging successfully with friends and others in the community
Developing effective personal and interpersonal relationship skills are crucial for our young teenagers who have left home for the first time, to live in a different country with a different culture and social norms. Personal and Interpersonal Learning Objectives directly address concepts such as accepting responsibility, adapting to new environments, and resolving conflicts. These are skills that shape the personality, effectiveness and competence of our students as they develop into adults capable of furthering world peace.
The AFS Orientation Framework has a cultural learning focus. “Personal Goals and Expectations” is one of the topics in the Orientation Framework, but the described intent is for the participant and host family to set personal goals, develop strategies to implement these goals and to evaluate goal accomplishment and personal growth during the exchange period.
List of actions envisioned in the Plan for Proactive Support
- Work with the Intercultural Learning Department to ensure that support related elements are fully covered in the Orientation Handbooks. That includes:
- At the Host Family Pre-Arrival Orientation discuss the AFS Learning Objectives
- At the Arrival Orientation introduce the Learning Objectives to participants.
- At the Post Arrival Orientation the focus is on the Personal and Interpersonal Objectives as related to the participant’s current experience/difficulties.
- At the Midyear Orientation, in addition to the Personal and Interpersonal Objectives, the Intercultural Objectives come into focus.
- At the Pre-Return and End-of-Stay the focus is largely on the Intercultural and Global Awareness Objectives.
- Be proactive rather than just react to the trial and error learning process. Support volunteers (especially Team Support Coordinator and Associate Support Coordinator) should proactively participate in orientations, particularly on topics related to personal and interpersonal development. Aim to monitor student progress, provide support-related guidance, and develop a connection with each participant to help with support counseling, as applicable.
- Liaisons should use the Learning Objectives to help focus on the learning opportunities when helping the participant and host family resolve a problem or crisis situation.
- Support Coordinators should review the monthly contacts in Global Link and respond to reported problems before the situation becomes critical.
- Support volunteers should use the Help and Learning which provides guidance to support volunteers on the use of the relevant support tools. See Support Counseling for a Continuum of Issues.
- Support volunteers, in consultation with Support Staff, should consider using a Plan for Success first for most situations. Depending on the progress level, a Support Agreement may be considered upon consultation with Support Staff. Both processes are based on the understanding of the issues, the participant’s goals, and the AFS Learning Objectives.
- Area teams and Chapters should identify and screen host families in advance for participants who may need support counseling or a host family change.