Community Based Learning

What is Community-Based Learning?

Community-based learning (CBL) is an experiential instructional strategy that engages students in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies, transforming them from passive recipients to active participants in their education and community while providing a deeper understanding of theories and course content.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning (SL) is a form of CBL that emphasizes serving not-for-profits and communities in need to meet a course's learning outcomes.

CBL and SL courses at Saint Joseph’s College encourage tolerance, leadership, and civic and social responsibility, while promoting the core values of the College. The Office of Service Learning promotes and supports the integration of this experiential component into course content, furthering the Mercy tradition of service on which the College was founded.


How Does Community-Based Learning Work?

Doing hands-on projects/problem-solving with community partners as part of a course contributes to learning course content just as reading texts, watching films, or conducting experiments in the lab do. Learning continues to occur through an array of reflection activities and assignments that help students connect their experiences in the course with the central ideas, hypotheses, theories, and methods they are studying.

Pearson's Town Farm

As a part of their coursework, students work at Pearson’s Town Farm (the College's own organic farm), learning about the environmental consequences of modern agricultural practices and alternatives to the industrial model. By actively participating in the farming activities, they learn through experience what they otherwise would only read or hear about. While practicing sustainable agriculture, they see how some other current practices are unsustainable. Students then relate their local experience to their developing understanding of the global impacts of agriculture through reflective exercises. The products of the farm are distributed to the students’ food service, as well as to the local food pantry charity, establishing the real connection between their work and the community served. The exercise is a valuable learning experience, a valuable service, and deepens the students’ connection with the mission of the College.

In the Community

Fine arts major Yu Ping Hu helped design the set for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine’s production of Sleeping Beauty. According to Hu, this kind of hands-on learning was particularly valuable. “I meet many different people and learn to step outside of my own box,” she says. “I might be contributing to the community through my art, but in return, the community gives back compliments and suggestions that allow me to grow as an artist.”

What Are the Benefits of Community-Based Learning?

CBL challenges students to learn firsthand about community, democracy, diversity, justice, civil society, social responsibility, leadership, and critical thinking. In addition, it offers students opportunities for personal growth, improved social and communication skills, job training, and exposure to an array of diverse perspectives that exist beyond the confines of campus life.

Exposure to State Industries

Professor Mary Lynn Engel’s Marketing Communications class worked with local lobstermen to develop a communications plan to raise awareness of the current issues facing the Maine lobster industry. Through research and working closely with the local lobstering community, students learned the importance of speaking with one voice and working together to influence change. They developed a complete communications package that the community is now using to move forward with their "Made in Maine" brand.

For more information about community-based learning, service learning, or community-based research, contact Kimberly Post at  kpost@sjcme.edu or 207-893-7789.

Faculty Resources

    Community Partner Applications

    We are constantly working to create more effective ways to connect community-based organizations and faculty-led academic courses with similar interests.

    Request for Partnerships (RFP)

    The RFP process is an efficient way to begin the process of developing successful partnerships. The RFP will provide you with valuable program information, including:

    • organization eligibility
    • student participation and expectations
    • partnership requirements and expectations

    Students in all course levels can serve in traditional volunteer roles, provided that the service opportunity aligns with the course objectives. However, partnerships are not limited to predetermined roles. Please consider needs and projects that have not been met by traditional volunteer and/or staff positions.

    Spring and Fall RFP

    Part I: Guidelines

    Part II: Partner Application (to apply, email kpost@sjcme.edu)

    Priority is given to applications received by May 1 for the May semester and August 1 for the Fall semester. All applications will be considered, but if your request can’t be matched appropriately with a course, we will pass your application on to other service organizations within the College, if appropriate.

    If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at cbl@sjcme.edu or 207-893-7789. We look forward to partnering with you and your organization!

    Community-Based Action Research

    There are opportunities to partner with research-focused courses in order to begin or complete a research interest of your organization. Contact cbl@sjcme.edu with the name of faculty members with similar research interests, and we will assist you in forming a research partnership.

    Guidelines for Community Partners

    Evaluation and Assessment
    Evaluation and assessment ensures that student learning and community partner goals are met, and all parties are benefiting from the partnership. Parties also assess the effectiveness of the partnership through evaluations, meetings, and/or other forms of communication.

    Academic credit is given for learning outcomes and final student grades are determined by the faculty.

    Community Partners are not obligated to implement ideas or recommendations provided by student project outcomes. However, we aim for contributions to be worthy of implementation.

    Terminating a Partnership

    There are many communication and feedback mechanisms in place to help address issues before they progress. However, in rare situations a partnership must end prematurely if/when student learning or community partner goals are not able to be met. Decisions will be made after agreement between all parties.

    Community Partner Selection Process

    All proposals will be reviewed based on alignment of service roles/projects and course learning objectives.

    Organizations with matching needs/interests will be contacted by the service learning coordinator and/or faculty member(s) for further discussion to ensure expectations are clear to all parties. All partnerships are finalized in collaboration with the faculty member and community partner.

    We cannot guarantee a course match for each community partner and/or service opportunity, but we will do our best. If a match cannot be made, we will try to connect you with another service program at Saint Joseph’s College.

    The number of community partnerships needed for each class varies and at times, individual classes are cancelled due to enrollment fluctuations and faculty changes. We will communicate changes as soon as they are confirmed.

    In the News

    The community became an extension of the classroom for hundreds of Saint Joseph’s College students. The students were enrolled in courses that had service learning components. See more in  Harvest Magazine  on Saint Joseph's Service Learning Program.

    Forms

    Community Partner Evaluation (for community supervisor)

    For Students:

    Login to mySJC to access these forms on your dashboard:
    Community-Based Learning Agreement 
    Student Evaluation of Community Partner