Applying for a Community-Based Learning Course Designation

All full-time faculty are invited to apply for a Community-Based Learning course designation for courses at the introductory, intermediate, advanced, or graduate level. Community-based learning is a course-based, credit-bearing form of experiential education in which students participate in organized experiences that meet community-identified needs, followed by reflection on those experiences to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

Integrating community-based learning into the curriculum of any discipline is possible, but it will take some time, careful thought, collaboration, and lots of planning. Developing, or revising, a course to include a community-based learning component for the first time will mean reshaping the philosophy of the course itself rather than simply appending a community engagement project to the syllabus. That is, while the community experiences may be only one of several requirements (exams, journals, essays, reports, research), the course should invite students to engage themselves critically and repeatedly in analysis of social systems, diversity, community revitalization, civic participation, and power. Faculty applying for a “CBL” designation for the first time are strongly urged to participate in the Community-Based Learning Institute which is offered in the Fall and Spring semesters.

Courses with a “CBL” designation must meet the following five criteria:

  1. Academically Relevant Community Engagement Project: The community engagement project enriches the principles and theories derived from the academic discipline; thus, the community experience is not an add-on or an afterthought but is fully integrated into the course design and stimulates course-relevant learning (i.e. tutoring, public speaking, health education, field research, report writing, economic impact analysis). While the community-based learning project is mandatory for all students, it should also be flexible enough in content to respect a student’s religious, political, and/or moral commitments.
  2. Revised Learning Objectives and Course Requirements:
    • The syllabus lists a range of learning objectives for the course and is revised to incorporate community-based learning or “civic engagement” into at least one of those objectives.
    • Course requirements include one or more community-based learning projects that involve a minimum of ten hours of direct engagement with the community during the semester.
  3. Assessment of Student Learning: Students are assessed on the basis of the learning demonstrated in reflection assignments, not for the community engagement alone. The project and related assignments account for at least 20% of the final course grade. The faculty member, the community partner, and/or the student may contribute to the assessment of student learning.
  4. Graded, Structured Reflection: In order to insure that civic engagement in the community becomes an educationally sound instrument of learning, class activities and assignments encourage the blending of experiential and academic learning. Course requirements should include some form of regular, graded structured reflection (journals, final essay, response papers) that links citizenship learning (that is, analysis of social systems, community revitalization, civic participation, and power) with the discipline-specific learning that has occurred during the course of the project. Either the syllabus, supporting assignment sheets, or this portion of the application should clarify the content and frequency of such reflection assignments.
  5. Curriculum Developed through Authentic Partnership: Faculty members regard the community not as a passive site for student learning but as co-educator and co-learner. Thus, faculty develop the community component of the syllabus collaboratively with community partners before the semester begins (as opposed to assigning students to seek out their own community assignments after the semester begins). The needs, culture, and context of the community are identified by the community partner, not by the faculty member, and are balanced with the student’s need to meet the learning objectives of the academic discipline. Because students are engaged in community-based learning that meets real community-based needs—as distinct from observation, apprenticeship, or internship—the curriculum provides the opportunity to develop the citizenship education of students even though the focus may also be on career preparation.

Submit the following materials to the Community-Based Learning Program (Old Main 109):

  1. Course Designation Cover Sheet
  2. A working draft of course materials, including:
    • A proposed syllabus
    • An assignment sheet that describes the community engagement project(s) in greater detail
    • An assignment sheet that describes a critical/reflective journal assignment (see criterion #4 above)
  3. A document explaining how the course will satisfy each of the five criteria for the course designation. (Please organize this document according to the numbered criteria listed above.)
  4. A list of possible community partners with whom initial contact has been made. (Please include contact names.)