Integrating Community Based Learning into a Course
Here are some principles for Integrating Community Based Learning into the curriculum. At Occidental college CBL classes aim for reciprocity that results in beneficial experiences for the class as well as for the community. Community projects, and often syllabi, are designed jointly by faculty and community partners.
Principles For Integrating Community Based Learning Into Courses
1) Academic credit is for learning, not for community service.
2) Do not compromise academic rigor. Service is designed to enhance academic learning, with input from community partners.
3) Community service needs to be integrated into the syllabus, according with the learning objectives for the course.
4) Establish criteria for the selection of community project placements.
5) Determine how community service is to be graded, and establish this with clarity in the syllabus. What percentage of the total grade is to be given to the community project? Will the community project be graded by reports from community partner? Student’s journal? Other?
6) Use guided reflections to help students integrate their academic and civic learning.
7) Rethink the faculty’s instructional role in a way that recognizes the role of students and the community as knowledge creators.
8) Coordinate with the community partner to establish clear expectations from both sides.
Types of Community Based Learning Components:
Option Within a Course
Students have an option to become involved in a community based learning project. A portion of normal coursework is replaced with a community based learning component offering the option to replace lab work with face-to-face projects with schools or community organizations.
Required Within a Course
All students are involved in community projects as an integrated aspect of the course.
Class Community Projects
The entire class is involved in a one-time community project. An example of this could be a visit to a museum in connection with an Art class, where students help with a project with which the museum needs assistance.
Independent Credit Option
Students negotiate with instructor to define parameters of community project component and ways to document learning derived from community projects, in connection to the academic subject.
Disciplinary Capstone Projects
Community based learning builds upon students’ cumulative knowledge in a discipline and demonstrates integration of knowledge with real-life issues. The Urban and Environmental Policy Department provides its Seniors with the opportunity to connect their final papers to a community based research project. For more information, please email Peter Dreier or Robert Gottlieb.
Community Based Learning Research Projects
Involves students in research within the community. The results of the research are communicated to an agency or community organization so it can be used to address community needs.
Community Based Learning Internships
During the period of planning the pilot project, Occidental’s Career Development Center (CDC)developed and implemented a new internship structure to provide 0-unit or 2-unit credits for students working with a faculty member. CCBL collaborates with interested faculty, students, and community partners for CBL internships, which were curriculum-connected. Once the internship sites are identified, CCBL staff work with faculty, students and community partners to coordinate the Learning Agreement for each internship, which included academic and civic engagement goals.
In addition to the CDC requirements, students participating in a CBL internship were asked to write about their reflections on their community-based learning experience, how it related to their own personal goals and values, how the experience connected to their course of study and how they saw their role in society, based on the internship experience.
Choosing a Community Based Learning Component:
- How integral is the community based learning experience to the course content?
- What knowledge and skills will students need in order to be successful with their community project?
- Does the community partner have experience with community based learning? If not, are they interested and able to learn?
- How many students can the community project site(s) accommodate?
- What resources are available to support community based learning efforts?
- Are the interests of the community partner addressed in designing the community project?
- Is there someone within the organization that can effectively supervise and mentor the students? How important is this for the specific project?
Integrating Community Based Learning Into a Course: Guiding Questions:
- What outcomes are desired for the course?
- Which course? Which type of community based learning course structure? (see “Types of Community Based Learning Components”above)
- What types of community projects?
- Which community partner?
- How will the learning be evaluated?
- How will projects be implemented and monitored?
- How will outcomes be measured?
Criteria for Choosing a Community Based Learning Site:
- The site must be doing work that is connected to the course in ways that will be obvious to students
- Activities at the site must give students opportunities to reflect on how course concepts relate to the activities
- Whenever possible, students should have direct contact with constituency groups with which the organization regularly interacts
- The work students do should have some clear connection to the main purposes of the organization
- Whenever possible, work toward a long term relationship with the community partner, for longer-term benefits for all involved. (Littlefield, 1994)
Possible Outcomes of Community Based Learning:
- Enhanced understanding of course content
- Ability to link course content to real life situations
- Moral development
- Increased civic responsibility
- Leadership skills and self-efficacy
- Enhanced appreciation for diversity
- Career preparation
- Increase student retention
To discuss ideas/proposals, contact Celestina Castillo.
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