What is community-engaged learning?
Community-engaged learning is a teaching method that combines community service with academic instruction, focusing on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility. The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) supports the development and mission of community-engaged learning across the Binghamton University campus. Community-engaged learning programs involve students in organized community service that addresses local needs, while developing their academic skills, sense of civic responsibility and commitment to the community (Definition has been adapted from Campus Compact).
A community-engaged course:
- Uses experiential strategies characterized by student participation in an organized service activity
- Is connected to specific learning outcomes
- Meets identified community needs
- Provides structured time for students to analyze and connect the service experience to learning
Community engagement can be carried out in several different ways. For example, it can be a one-time project incorporated into a specific course, providing students the opportunity to apply course content to a particular community need. It may also entail ongoing work with a community or agency on specified programs or projects that relate to the course or discipline.
To begin organizing and constructing your community-engaged learning course, consider four basic principles:
- Engagement: Does the service meet a real community need? Has that been defined by your local community? How?
- Reflection: Do you have mechanisms built throughout the semester to support students in making connections between the course content and service experiences?
- Reciprocity: Is the partnership going to provide mutually beneficial outcomes for students and the community partners? Do both serve as teacher and learner equally?
- Public dissemination: Is the outcome of the service activity/project presented to the organization for current and future use? How?
Adapted from: Heffernan, K. (2001). Fundamentals of service-learning course connection. Providence: Campus Compact.
CCE resources for developing a community-engaged course
In addition to these online resources, the CCE can provide sample course syllabi, referrals to community partners and various print and electronic resources on service-learning pedagogy and course development.
The following resources will also help you get started on designing a community-engaged course:
- Eyler, J., Giles, Jr., D. E., Stenson, C. M., & Gray, C. J. (2001). At a glance: What we know about the effects of service learning on college students, faculty, institutions, and communities, 1993-2000: Third Edition. Vanderbilt University.
- Service Learning/Social Justice Curriculum Development Framework. Source: The Service Learning Institute, California State University, Monterey Bay.
- Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1995). A service-learning curriculum for faculty. Michigan Journal for Community Service-Learning, 2, 112-122.
- Principles of Good Practice for Service-Learning Pedagogy
Howard, Jeffery, ed. (2001). Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning: Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, University of Michigan, OCSL, pp. 16-19.
- Amulya, Joy. (2004). Guide to Integrating Reflection into Field-Based Courses. Center for Reflective Community Practice, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT. Inquiry-driven and critical analysis strategies from MIT for effectively facilitating student reflection in field-based courses.
- A list of service-learning syllabi for over 80 disciplines in higher education.