Academic community-engaged learning can be described as 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).

group of kids at gym

By contrast ...

By contrast, internships and practicum placements are focused primarily on the student for whom the priority is vocational learning and the development of skills for a specific profession. The activity or project is driven more by professional standards and accreditation than by the needs of the community agency or its clients. And volunteerism, at the other end of the continuum, is focused primarily on the agency or site and the needs of their clients rather than on the learning goals of the volunteer. The diagram to the right helps visualize this continuum.

Experiential education continuum as described in text

In its optimal form, academic community-engaged learning focuses equally on the student and the community agency. The placement activity is designed by U of T faculty and staff, in collaboration with the community partner, to address a need identified by that agency while aligned closely with the stated learning outcomes of the academic course. Academic service-learning placements serve as a living, or experiential, text – primary source material from which students can draw new frames of reference, perspectives and knowledge.

See our list of courses currently seeking placements in community organizations.