Community-Based Learning Courses Best Practices

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Set Learning Objectives
The first step in the design of a community-engaged learning course is to set the learning objectives to help determine the service project and community partners. Experiential learning courses may include different or additional learning objectives than a traditional course such as: teamwork, communication, leadership, problem analysis, problem solving, and critical thinking.
 
Community Partner Selection
At U of T Scarborough, faculty have as a resource two Integrated Learning Experience (ILE) coordinators. Their role is to find appropriate community partners to match the course objectives of each community-engaged learning course. They will meet with faculty members one on one to determine community partner needs. Often they will already be in communication with potential partners that will be a fit. If not, they will seek the appropriate partners.
 
It is recommended that during course development that the faculty members have at least one face-to-face meeting with the potential community partner. After that, regular contact should be maintained by email and/or phone.
 
Reflection Assignments
Guided reflection is the key to successful learning in community-engaged learning courses. Through reflection assignments and exercises the students are able to make connections between the course materials and their community projects. This leads to deeper and more practical learning of the material and makes their community work more effective. The CTL reflection handout lists 25 different assignments and assignments with detailed descriptions of how they work.
 
Evaluation
Evaluation of community-engaged learning courses may include aspects that differ from traditional courses. These include student self evaluations and input from the community partners considered as part of the evaluation. Community partners are not allowed to grade students, as per U of T policy. However, their feedback should be taken into consideration in student evaluation.
 
Grading
Credit is not given for the community project but for what the student learns from their community work and the class work and the synergy between them. This is best determined through grading reflection projects such as reflection journals, papers and presentations.
 
A good principle when deciding the weight given to the community project in the course grad is to assess what percentage of the course learning goals are learned through the community work.