Benefits for Instructors
- Facilitates interdisciplinary and collaborative projects; broadens outlets for presentations and publications of research
- Demonstrates commitment to service by awarding academic credit for learning through community engagement; increases opportunities for professional recognition, publicity and awards
- Extends the classroom into community for the development of co-creation of knowledge with community mentors; places faculty in alignment with the Wisconsin Idea
- Student evaluations of CBL courses more favorable than ‘traditional’ courses
Benefits for Students
- Greater motivation to learn; deeper understanding of subject matter; integration of concepts from class to authentic issues
- Reduction of potential negative stereotyping; increase in cultural awareness
- Greater self-knowledge; increased awareness of community and social issues
- Enhanced interpersonal skills; improved leadership
- Especially valuable for those who learn best through experience and teaching others
- Encourages retention of first-generation students and students of color
Benefits for Community Partners
- Supports the work of community organizations which are often understaffed and under-funded
- Creates new alliances and partnerships with the University; demystifies a large and complex institution; creates opportunities to learn about the latest research on practical questions for staff and clients
- Infuses agencies with the excitement, enthusiasm, and energy of young college students, as well as more experienced students who can offer professional skills based on their educational and employment history
- Creates opportunity to act as a co-educator, impart organizational mission, and identify prospective employees from interactions with students.
Publishing in the Field of Community-Based Learning
- Generator School Network’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse provides a list of journals and other publications where you can submit research and articles on academic community-based learning across all levels.
- The major journal in the field is the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning.
- Another is the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement
Some things to consider in course planning
Maintaining Academic Standards
Academic learning connected to community engagement is at the core of these classes. What students are learning in the classroom should inform and be informed by their engagement. If a CBL class is designed and carried out properly, we believe that it will be even more rigorous than traditionally-structured courses. In academic CBL courses, students are not only being asked to master course material, they are also being asked to take the information that they are being taught in the classroom and apply it to the experiences that they have in the community.
Using the Community-based Learning Pedagogy
Any time you incorporate new pedagogical strategies into your teaching, your competencies are going to be challenged—academic CBL is no different. Many educators will have to shift to a different way of thinking about the teaching-learning process, moving from that of teacher to the position of a “co-educator,” sharing that role with the community partner organization and your students.
Making the case for Community-based Learning
Are you considering using a community-based learning approach? Check out this document to learn more about the benefits of a CBL approach, as well as CBL best practices, from many peer-reviewed sources.
Finding Discipline-appropriate Community Engagement Projects
While finding a connection between classroom learning and service to the community may be easier in some subject areas and more difficult in others, it can be effective in any field. Some faculty/instructional staff in the biological or physical sciences or engineering may find it harder to imagine site placements directly related to their course content areas. However, the Morgridge Center has resources available to help you integrate community-based learning or research into a course. Our library and our online resources contain extensive literature on how to utilize CBL pedagogy in different subject areas (including the biological sciences), and we offer personal consultations about incorporating community engagement. Randy Stoecker in CALS and Andrea Hicks in Civil and Environmental Engineering are examples of the small but steadily-growing cadre of faculty/instructional staff members who have successfully utilized CBL in their teaching.
While different departments will give different weights to this kind of teaching methodologies, many faculty/instructional staff members from various disciplines at UW-Madison (and other institutions of higher education) have successfully integrated academic CBL into their scholarly work and been successful with using in their tenure consideration. The Morgridge Center for Public Service Faculty Director is available for consulting around this topic, and we have examples from faculty here who have received tenure while doing engaged scholarship. Additionally, there is a new Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Community-Based Learning, which comes with a base pay raise. Find more information about that award here.
Planning for Course Time
Academic community-based learning is not an add-on to the current requirements of your course. As you begin to incorporate it into your teaching, some of your traditional teaching techniques may be replaced with more dynamic learning activities. Instructors note that additional “prep time” is generally required for CBL courses; however, the higher levels of student engagement in their courses more than makes up for any extra time they spend doing the initial planning. Morgridge Center Service-Learning Fellows can provide assistance with many of the initial administrative tasks associated with developing an academic CBL component or course. Instructors also report that once a course is up and running, it becomes easier to teach it each subsequent semester, because long-term community partnerships are developed and sustained.
A general rule of thumb is if the CBL course is part of a required degree program, university liability insurance will apply, but students must have their own health insurance. It’s a good idea to discuss any potential risk factors with prospective community partners prior to entering into a partnership agreement, and make decisions based on how they answer. They may have liability insurance that covers all volunteers already as an additional assurance.
If you have questions regarding liability, check with Jeanine Critchley at University of Wisconsin-Madison Risk Management: email@example.com or 608-262-8925.