What is it?
Why would I use it?
Community Engaged Learning (CEL) connects scholarship (research and pedagogy) with identified community interests and needs through a common research project or other scholarly endeavor. The ideal community-university partnership generates primary knowledge, where the community partner agency or group plays a meaningful collaborative role in defining research priorities, questions, and outcomes. Each CEL activity should consider:
- Meaningfulness of the activity to the community
Community is involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating the activities; the activity helps address a need that the community has identified, in a way in which the community appreciates
- Meaningfulness of the activity to faculty teaching and pedagogy
There is evidence that the partnership will enhance student learning, and, that the activity links to the faculty member’s teaching program
- Meaningfulness of the partnership to faculty scholarship
There is evidence that the activity links directly to a faculty member’s program of research or program of artistic work.
- Appropriateness of the pedagogy to the desired learning outcomes
The community-based activity does not compromise student needs with respect to the stated learning outcomes of the academic course.
How do I apply it in my teaching?
Connecting Community Engaged Learning to the Learning Outcomes
A wide range of pedagogical models falls under the CEL umbrella. These range from simple one-off undergraduate service components to complex multi-year arrangements with students at different year levels working on proportionally deep aspects of a long-term community-based research project. Some examples of approaches undertaken include:
- A modest community-based group research project within a first- or second-year course
- An upper years theoretical or applied skills course employing a project- or problem-based learning model where the majority of the coursework is tied to a community-identified problem or project
- A ‘special topics’ course that is created solely to fit an identified community interest or to create an opportunity to share knowledge generated through an ongoing faculty community based research partnership
Academic Service Learning (or Community Service Learning) is a more specifically-defined model that employs a “course-based, credit-bearing educational experience that allows students to (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.” (Bringle and Hatcher, 2009). While highlighting the curricular nature of a service learning approach, this definition also stresses the need to assess, through reflection, the potential impact of activities on community.
All reproaches to CEL require a robust partnership between the community agency or group and the faculty/instructor/research team. In many cases, strong pre-existing faculty-community research connections can be expanded to include a curricular learning component.
A sustainable CEL program strives to include students in a laddered way at every stage of the community-based activity; junior undergraduate research, senior undergraduate research and mentorship, graduate research, mentorship, and teaching.