Systems-Level Resource Mapping

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss the kinds of systems-level resources available in the community to assist your students in removing obstacles to learning. We will cover how to identify and utilize these community systems resources to improve the school-wide response to student needs.

Perspective Shift

Donna is an administrative assistant at the school board, and she notices that she frequently gets calls from schools seeking resources to help with different problems students may face. These calls are about the same issues in the annual needs assessment, typically created by combining data from survey questionnaires given to parents at the beginning of the year with data from city, county, and state resources.

Donna sees that those needs seem to exist in a bubble, focusing more on individual students and statistics, with little regard to students who do not have apparent or obvious needs or whose parents may not have filled out the form. Given that there are overlapping needs among many students, as well as a high margin of error in such assessments, resource mapping seems to be a viable alternative. Donna looks for a way to address these overlapping student needs in an efficient and accessible manner.

What is Resource Mapping?

Resource mapping is the process of mindfully targeting and identifying community resources that provide access to the help that many families need to succeed. This allows for a handy spreadsheet that will tell you the name and contact information of the systems-level resource, the services it provides, and the referral process to get someone help. Resource mapping takes a broader systems-level approach to examining available resources among institutional entities that can help students with a variety of needs. This seems to be the solution Donna needs to help her field these calls about students.

Step 1: Research

This initial stage of resource mapping involves conducting research on the different institutional resource systems that are present in the community. Many schools already have a list of community partnerships that is a great place to start. Take note of which of those systems are still providing services, who is the contact person, what the necessary steps to get services are, what kind of services are provided, and what the criteria for getting those services are. Donna recruits interns from a variety of relevant disciplines from the local college to assist with research.

Many churches of different denominations have a social service worker on staff who assists people in need with food or clothing or other needs.
stained glass windows in a church

A list of potential systems-level resources would include:

  • Higher Education: Often a good source for helping create the resource map, as well as being a favorite source for tutors, classroom assistants, interns, and volunteers.
  • Child-care Services: Provide care to children of working parents before school, after school, on teacher workdays, and during summer and holidays, often including the benefits of transportation and discounted rates.
  • Social Services Agencies: Provide assistance with child-care costs, job placement, food, health insurance, and a range of other services a student's family may need.
  • Community Agencies and Social Organizations: Come in a wide variety of purposes with many different goals and missions, any number of which may be needed.
  • Medical Professionals: Usually can provide health care, family planning, assistance with mental health crisis intervention, addiction assistance, and parenting skills trainings.
  • Faith-based Organizations: Often help with medical treatments and bills, food, clothing, and spiritual guidance, and sometimes mental health.
  • Governmental Agencies: At the city, county, state, and federal level, often help with abuse prevention and intervention, mental health treatment, financial assistance and job placement.

Step 2: Compile

Once you know which services are provided by which entities, assemble and compile these results. Using a spreadsheet will allow easy access to this information. In compiling the data, ensure that all the information is correct and up-to-date. Using the name of each organizational resource as a new row, make different columns to include the contact information, hours of operation, services, and other criteria collected in the research stage. As new resources become available, add them to the map. If resources are no longer available, remove them from the map. The key here is to make this a living, fluid document that will outlive any specific position appointments or title-holders. Whatever format you use, ensure that you can always go in and make changes as needed.

Instead of or in addition to a spreadsheet, you could use a mental map or idea map for charting your resource systems.
mind map

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