Introduction to Community-Engaged Learning

What is Community-Engaged Learning (CEL)?

Community-Engaged Learning is experiential education that simultaneously and equitably promotes student learning and addresses community needs.  These courses aim to benefit both students and communities through:

  1. directing education toward the pursuit of co-creating solutions to complex social challenges and in so doing impacting the public good; and
  2. actively developing engaged citizenship knowledge, skills, and motivation to empower students to build the worlds they imagine.

But ... can you really do CEL in 3.5 weeks? 

YES! Community-engaged learning does look a little different on the block plan.  But, luckily we have many resident experts (CC faculty) who have creatively imagined ways to adapt the pedagogy to a condensed-format, immersive curriculum.  Please see below for types of community-engaged learning that work on the block plan.

For more thoughts on how to approach condensed-format community-engaged learning, click here.

work with a clear beginning, end, and outcome that builds the capacity (power) of a community partner to fulfill their mission over time, and ideally gives students a chance to apply classroom knowledge.
research for public-problem solving, co-creating applied knowledge for community impact.  Ideally, projects engage non-academics as equitable thought partners, and the research leads to or informs action (rather than producing knowledge for the sake of knowledge).
engaging students as thought partners for community partners, enabling students to apply classroom knowledge to real-world issues.  Offer disciplinary expertise to community partners who want to draw on academic knowledge to, for example, solve a problem, inform a decision, assess impact, generate ideas, or create or design something new.
bring community into the classroom, and/or the classroom into the community.  Inviting community partners and non-academics into the classroom as co-educators honors diverse forms of knowledge, including lived and practitioner experience. Teaching the content of the discipline beyond campus transforms academic knowledge from a private good into a public good.
community learning experiences that "leverage the power of place," often including a field trip or field experience.  Provides immersive, transformative learning that mobilizes students to continue to engage in an issue after the course.
efforts to participate in culture change through storytelling and artistic expression that highlights stories of injustice, illuminates social problems, or inspires changemaking.  Often aims to address inequities in representation by elevating marginalized voices, narratives, and forms of knowledge.
directly addressing the needs of individuals, communities or community organizations, in a way that both promotes community benefit and provides an experiential learning opportunity to deepen students' understanding of course content.

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Next Steps

The CCE runs a program called the Publicly Engaged, Actionable Knowledge (PEAK) Project that connects campus knowledge to community impact. CC educators submit ideas for courses and research projects they'd like to connect to community.  Then, community partners peruse this list and express interest in those courses and research agendas they feel align to their work. The CCE plays the "match-maker" role in facilitating exploratory meetings. 

Read more about the program here.

Have a course into which you'd like to incorporate community-engaged learning?  Submit an interest form here.

  • Incorporate community-based experiences beyond the classroom
  • Integrate with classroom learning goals – community experience enhances and is enhanced by knowledge from the curriculum
  • Provide structured opportunities to learn from experience and assess that learning
  • Aim to cultivate students’ capacity to impact the public good and be public problem solvers throughout their lives
  • Prepare students to be intentional and effective in their community work
  • Ensure the partnership is mutually beneficial, with meaningful impact on community-driven needs
  • Engage in long-term relationship building and sustained commitments to partners
  • Co-Create: share decision-making and meaning-making in all phases of project
  • In perception and practice, view the community by strengths and assets, rather than solely needs or deficiencies
  • Build intentionally on the assets of higher education – cultivate partnerships that leverage the cumulative knowledge and methodologies of systematic inquiry/research of your field. Consider how to make your discipline publically relevant.
  • Engage community voices and expertise as co-educators in your classroom – seek to center experiences, voices, and forms of knowledge that tend to be excluded from academic settings

If you teach or plan to teach a community-engaged learning course at CC, please apply for a course tag so that we can tag your course in the course schedule. 

Click here for more information on the CEL course tag. 

  • If you need a thought partner in designing your course or applied assignment, please reach out to CCE Director Dr. Jordan Travis Radke at jradke@coloradocollege.edu.  
  • If you need support in brainstorming and connecting to community partners for your course, please reach out to CCE Community Partnerships Coordinator Niki Sosa Gallegos at nsosa@coloradocollege.edu

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Teaching Award

Each year at Community Engagement Recognition Night, the CCE awards a faculty member with the Exemplary Achievement in Community-Engaged Teaching award. This award honors a faculty member who has artfully woven academic scholarship with rigorous community-based work in transformative and innovative ways. Recipients of this award encourage students to make powerful connections between theory and practice, support the development of civic-skill building and civic identity, and prepare liberal arts students to serve as change agents in a complex and challenging world.

Know of excellent community-engaged teaching? Please submit a nomination in the spring to cce@coloradocollege.edu

2019-2020 Winner: Florencia Rojo, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Excerpt from her nomination: "In her first semester…Florencia used her Community Based Research class, the first time she had taught it or that it have been taught at all - to do research and report to the CSPD on the police shooting of DeVon Bailey. They did outstanding work and appeared at at least one community meeting to report on their findings. It might have been 'lucky' that such an incident occurred during that block, but what was truly amazing was that Florencia, new to the college and new to the community, was able to martial the appropriate resources and connections to make for a deeply meaningful project - for the students and the Springs! She is AMAZING!"

Report an issue - Last updated: 09/23/2022