Teaching a community-engaged learning course
Students in community-engaged learning courses are more engaged in their learning, build stronger relationships with their professors, and develop complex critical thinking skills. The Centre for Community Partnerships supports University of Toronto faculty in the design and development of community-engaged learning courses. We offer consultations, resources, services, faculty development events and workshops to help you launch successful community-engaged learning courses.
Defining community-engaged learning and academic service-learning.
Community-engaged learning courses integrate several key features, including community placements and reflection assignments, into academic for-credit courses. While there are many variations on community-engaged learning, the dominant pedagogical approach of community-engaged learning courses emerges from the pedagogy of “service-learning.” Academic service-learning is 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, 1995).
Reciprocity is a key tenet of all community-engaged learning; the university-community partnership should be beneficial to all parties. Academic service-learning, for instance, focuses equally on the student and the community agency. Placement activities are designed by U of T faculty and staff, in collaboration with the community partner, to address a need identified by that agency while aligning closely with the stated learning outcomes of the academic course. Placements serve as an experiential text or primary source material from which students can draw new frames of reference, perspectives and knowledge.
It is this notion of reciprocity that many use to distinguish community-engaged learning from other forms of experiential learning. For instance, according to Andrew Furco (1996; see diagram below), internships, co-ops and practicum placements focus primarily on the student, for whom the priority is vocational learning and the development of skills for a specific profession. The activity or project students undertake is driven more by professional standards and accreditation than by the needs of the community organization or residents. Volunteerism, at the other end of Furco’s continuum, focuses primarily on community organization requirements rather than the learning goals of the volunteer.
The Centre for Community Partnerships can support your community-engaged teaching through the following programs and services:
- Facilitating faculty workshops and events on community-engaged learning
- Providing one-on-one consultations related to course, syllabus, assignment, community partnership, research and assessment development
- Finding community placements for your course
- Convening a CEL community of practice where you can learn from other instructors
- Issuing monthly newsletters and maintaining a faculty portal site on CEL
- Advising on issues of risk, ethics, insurance and other administrative matters
For questions or assistance with any of these (or any other CEL-related matters) please contact Jennifer Esmail, Coordinator, Academic Initiatives.
How to submit a request for student placements with community partners
If you would like the Centre for Community Partnerships to assist you with finding community partners for your community-engaged learning courses, please contact us and complete a “Request for Partnerships Proposal form.” We typically need a full term’s advance notice to support community partnership development.
- For Fall and Year courses, please submit the form by the first week of May (prior to the course).
- For Winter courses, please submit the form by the first week of September (prior to your course).
- Completed forms and queries about community partnerships and placements can be directed to Rebecca Wolfe, Coordinator, Community Development.