Community Engaged Teaching and Research
Each semester, the London Center supports undergraduate and graduate courses in disciplines as varied as physical therapy and management which connect students to the Boston area community through projects and direct service.
In the London Center, we believe that at its best community-engaged learning is a high-impact pedagogy which can enhance student learning while providing tangible benefits to communities. For community-engaged learning to be effective in this manner, we emphasize the following practices:
- Course Integration: Service should be fully integrated with course learning objectives.
- Community Relationships: Partnerships should be beneficial to the partners as well as the students. Communities should be approached from an asset-based rather than a need-based perspective.
- Quality Reflection: Students should have an opportunity for quality reflection on their service experience and how that service connects to the course concepts.
The London Center also envisions community-engaged learning as having the potential to support the principles of social justice through increasing equity and inclusion in our city and beyond. We work with instructors interested in community-engaged learning as a tool for social justice to realize this potential.
The Director of the London Center supports community engaged teaching and research at Simmons, working with faculty to build community connections and ensure high quality, high impact learning opportunities for students and mutually beneficial, meaningful participatory research; these opportunities, in turn, provide services and bring additional resources to the communities in which we are embedded.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why should I take a community-engaged learning course? What are the benefits?
- First hand experience with economic, social, cultural, and political contexts and factors that shape concepts addressed in coursework
- Greater depth of understanding by connecting coursework to the issues and concerns in the community
- Opportunities to learn from community members, leaders, and practitioners
- Opportunities to contribute to the mission and/or purpose of an organization through service
- Firsthand experience with the nonprofit, government, and educational sectors -- and their strengths and limitations
2. How can I find a community-engaged learning course? How do I know if a course includes community-engaged learning?
- Community-engaged learning courses are designated as service-learning in Workday. You can search for them by clicking “Course Tags” on the left, clicking “more” and then checking the “(SL) Service-Learning box.
Engage your Students in the Community and Beyond
Faculty find community-engaged teaching can be a catalyst for research and scholarly work (Driscoll, Holland, Gelmon, & Kerrigan, 1996), as well as increase students' learning of course content (Ward, 2000). Community-engaged pedagogy inserts new ideas and methods into courses and can foster new synergy between students and faculty as teaching-learning partners. Faculty often find that they gain renewed energy for their work in the process. Long-term engagement with agencies and organizations may lead to ongoing research and community development. Many instructors also choose to incorporate community-engaged learning into their course from a personal commitment to social justice. Community-engaged learning can provide an excellent opportunity to discuss questions of social justice across disciplines with your students, and to help move the work of community organizations committed to social justice forward.
The London Center is committed to community-engaged learning as a high impact pedagogy which can benefit students, instructors and communities. This does not mean that community-engaged learning will be the right fit for every course or every instructor, or that it will always be easy. Instructors considering this pedagogy must decide if community-engaged learning can be integrated into the learning objectives of their course meaningfully and if they have the commitment and resources to build relationships with communities as a part of their practice. If you do choose to incorporate community-engaged learning into your course, the London Center is here to help. We are also available for consultation and partnership development for community-engaged research.
Resources and Forms:
Simmons Community Engagement is committed to building lasting and impactful relationships between community organizations, faculty, the institution, and students. Contact the Director of the London Center to brainstorm possible connections and for more information.
Service-Learning courses at Simmons tend to take one of two forms:
Project Based Service-Learning
With embedded or project-based service learning, students complete projects for one or more community organizations which are integrated into the class and tailored to the assets and needs of the specific organization(s), the faculty's learning objectives, and the students in the class. Simmons Community Engagement works with faculty and students to build partnerships, which may extend over multiple semesters. These projects can often require 20 – 60 hours of hours from students on projects.
Some examples of Project Based Service-Learning:
- A group of students learning about physical therapy create chair yoga workout for a local elder community home
- A group of students in a Public Health course hold a health fair focused on vaccinations at an organization providing health care for the homeless
In placement-based courses, students volunteer in organizations in Boston's communities, and then connect their experiences in those volunteer opportunities to their course work through reflections and other assignments. Students generally seek out their own volunteer opportunities with community partners that fit with the learning objectives of their course. Often, faculty require a commitment of at least 20 hours or more during the semester.
Some examples of Placement Based Service-Learning:
- A student in "Introduction to Social Work and Welfare" volunteers with Jumpstart, and connect their work with preschoolers to course concepts through regular in-class reflections.
- A nursing student in "Health Care Policy: Community Advocacy and Leadership" volunteers at Friendship works to interact with the elderly outside of a healthcare setting. They then use their experiences to formulate a final paper on a social policy issue.