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What is community-based learning?

This is an overview of community-based learning. Click this link for a pdf.

Community-based learning is a teaching, learning and reflective practice that integrates academic study with service to enhance learning, promote civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.  An exemplary model of this is service-learning.

Service-learning is a “course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (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 personal values and civic responsibility.”   ~Bringle, R., Hatcher, J., & MacIntosh, R. Analyzing Morton’s Typology of Service Paradigms and Integrity; Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning.

Standards of Quality Practice

  • Meaningful Service: Actively engages students in meaningful and personally relevant service activities
  • Partnerships: Reciprocal collaboration between campus and community
  • Duration & Intensity:  Sufficient duration & intensity to address community needs and meet learning outcomes
  • Link to Curriculum: Intentionally integrates academic learning and relevant community-based service; the purpose is to enhance learning and to never compromise academic rigor
  • Progress Monitoring & Assessment: engages students in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals
  • Student Voice: Provides students with a strong voice in the planning process to take more ownership of their education.  Promotes acquisition of knowledge and skills to enhance student leadership and decision making
  • Diversity: Promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect amongst all participants
  • Synthesis & Reflection: Includes structured critical reflection that is ongoing and throughout the experience  that prompts deep thinking and analysis about oneself , course content & global competencies

The Pedagogy
Community-Based Learning is a form of experiential learning that engages students in service as an integrated facet of a course.  It is a teaching, learning and reflective practice that integrates academic study with service to enhance learning, promote civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Within CBL, classroom studies complement service within the community and enable students to reflect upon and address local and global social problems. CBL engages students in active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning experiences that meet identified community needs. CBL not only changes the way students learn, but it changes society’s view of education and service. In this sense, CBL is a philosophy of education and service to the community.
CBL is not an “add on;” it is a methodology to achieve core academic outcomes.

Comparison of community service, service-learning, and internship


Community Service



Who benefits?


Organization & Student


What is the primary focus?


Service & Learning


What is the educational purpose?

Civic and ethical development

Academic and civic development

Career and academic development

Is the service integrated with curriculum?


(co-curricular or add-on)



(co-curricular  or supplemental)

What is the nature of the service activity?

Based on social cause

Based on academic discipline

Based on industry or career

~ Adapted from Marquette University Service Learning Program

Community-Based Learning Models - At UMD, students are involved with the community in a variety ways. Students may conduct their service by working alone, in pairs, in small groups, or with their entire class. We have identified five models of Community-Based Learning to summarize the ways students participate in the community.

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Last modified on 01/09/12 03:31 PM
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