Community-University Engagement through the Curriculum - February 2, 2010

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For more information about Community-Based Learning at SFU, visit the related wikior website.


Community-based learning is being facilitated by faculty across this institution - what opportunities, challenges, sharing and collaboration are possible among us?

Join other faculty for a facilitated discussion about the who, what, how, why and why not of community-based learning (including service learning, community internships, community-based participatory research, and other course-based activities with nonprofit agencies and social/environmental issues).

Your hosts:

  • Mark Winston, Centre for Dialogue
  • Peter Hall, Urban Studies
  • Trina Isakson, Work Integrated Learning


  • Mark Winston, Centre for Dialogue
  • Peter Hall, Urban Studies
  • Trina Isakson, Work Integrated Learning
  • Cindy Xin, LIDC
  • Muriel Klemetski, Work Integrated Learning
  • Zoë Druick, School of Communication
  • Deanna Rogers, Sociology/Anthropology
  • Stephanie Greaves, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology
  • Emma Horsley, TechONE
  • Wendy Norman, Student Development
  • John Bogardus, Sociology/Anthropology
  • Barb Wepruk, Faculty of Environment
  • Tyler Morgenstern, Faculty of Communication
  • Shaheen Nanji, SFU International
  • Mignon Alphonso, SFU International


Quick observations of the room: there is a sub-culture of community engagement at SFU, and we are fairly well represented at this dialogue session
There are two possible direction to go with community-based learning (CBL): an informal network of practitioners or something more structured

Goals for Attending (shared by participants)

  • How can we connect course work with real community?
  • What strategic direction is desired by faculty?
  • Connecting students to international and development opportunities
  • Looking to incorporate CBL into first –year TechONE
  • Faculty of Environment: looking to increase/incorporate learning more
  • School of Communications: curriculum review – how to incorporate
  • Get and share ideas
  • FCAT: creating CBL internships
  • LIDC: how to help?

Context and Definitions

Definitions were shared (available at the CBL wiki) to ground our conversation and have a shared foundation

Overview of CBL at SFU: faculty seem to work in silos and the work is fragmented but CBL does happen in various ways (e.g. community-based participatory research, internships, etc) but lack of reflection, especially re: civic learning might exist, need to establish a baseline of good practice, task force on teaching and learning and graduating student attributes drive experiential learning goals. SFPIRG Action Research eXchange has support many currently existing CBL activities by providing projects.

Currently many curriculum reviews are going on, often involving the incorporation of experiential learning activities - FCAT, Communication, Environment, etc.

Discussion Questions

Facilitated by Mark Winston and Peter Hall.

What is the commitment, why are we in this field, and why is it important to bring community engagement into the classroom?

  • Learning is so much more real when presenting to the community and dealing with the issues (this reported by students at the semester in dialogue debrief)
  • “fear of the real world”: bridge the divide between community and university and the quality of the learning is transformative – everything is the ‘real world’
  • Education is selfish but it should be about coming to university to gain skills to give back
  • theory and practice become interwoven
  • Helps anchor learning
  • Increases place-based learning – culture/nature/issue/entrepreneurship/decision-making
  • CBL provides focus and motivation on giving back and be committed to giving back – developing commitment and positive social change rather than focusing on academic study only
  • Quality and depth of learning, accountability and relationship between university and the world (may be debate on how that relationship is structured), citizen responsibility
  • Answers “education for what?”
  • Increased interaction among disciplines
  • How do we understand our roles as educators- do we only engage CBL because it is good pedagogy or are there other goals? It is for a better learning environment? In one example, related to downtown eastside, do we have a right to go into the community was brought up and by dealing with this conflict students learned a lot, engage critical citizens (conflict becomes increased learning in itself)
  • Increased student passion

What can be done for with, for and by students to support CBL?

  • Create student forums to discuss areas of concern and from this arise ideas (for example, field schools)
  • Students are engaged with the university as a community, so this is an area to start to support CBL
  • CSCD provides an example of greater depth and responsiblity of CBL (2nd yr - on campus, 3rd yr off campus, 4th yr grant writing)
  • University could support CBL by having an area that collects the how’s and what’s that are happening on campus- no comprehensive coverage of university activities currently, but starting to establish these resources in a public space Wiki
  • Engage in dialogue with students to launch experiential learning- ask students what organizations they want to work with, learner-based
  • What other things needed to inspire CBL- celebrating it in the literature, giving students credibility
  • Take hold of one’s own education (i.e. choosing own passion/community organizations)
  • To enhance CBL, faculty to give students credits for introducing CBL and then have faculty guide
  • Celebrate alumni community once graduated
  • Remove curricular barriers (i.e. credits)
  • Desire of students for “E” component and meet the curricular components—faculty and students desire may differ
  • Support/celebrate/connect to students ‘multiple’ communities
  • Providing more credibility to students’ opinions
  • Are students being led by faculty to “learn” or vice versa
  • Increase direct studies awareness
  • Required courses limit options/passions
  • Required ‘E’ means more barriers which may take passion out of E
  • E is option vs. E is flexible but mandatory
  • Take current courses and make them more ‘E’

As we work with communities, how and where they should they become involved in the process?

  • Build on existing relationships faculties may have with community organizations
  • Groups losing funding and looking for volunteers
  • Some community relationships well established
  • Keep the door open and accept recommendations from other community groups even if there is not direct relevancy
  • International community relationships but this is resource intensive
  • Cooperate between disciplines, reduce silos, create community among the community, if the community is diverse, we still need to have a common base to interact with that diversity
  • Feedback about quality of student work
  • Risk of “creating needs”
  • How are community engaged as co-educators?
  • Community members as seasonal lecturers or guest speakers
  • Don’t need to worry as much about accountability once out; but how to start
  • Students can choose to volunteer/work 8 hours/week on anything a community organization wants or choose to do additional project/report
  • Learning objectives flexible to connect with community needs
  • Is research the focus or work for community?
  • Keep door open if no current student fits: keep options open communication?
  • Inform community about the “work involved” for working with students
  • !WARNING! Many faculty/students etc are interested in CBL, may have many people after same organizations

How do faculty practice CBL, how could they collaborate and what might be the best way to collaborate?

  • Making recommendations to faculty, the faculty need to understand how to involve community engagement even on a small scale in the classroom
  • There is faculty interest—provide way to do CBL- team practice, cohort models (courses) involved in programming, 8 credit courses,
  • Share community contacts? (if there are strong relationships, do you want to take the risk to share), big job to develop the community relationships
  • Share face to face dialogue and virtual resources to increase the interest
  • Online space to learning about different models
  • CBL list serv
  • Show and tell projects among faculty
  • Guidebook to experiential learning opportunities
  • If you have 1hr/week vs. 8hrs/week vs. 5-min to discuss opportunities
  • Collaborate: opportunities, resources, collaborations
  • Include student room in online community
  • Need resources and coordinated student push


There is big interest in CBL but what’s missing? Perhaps a lack of understanding and imagination about how CBL may be integrated and shared, lack of properly resourced central space to manage/forward CBL. The outcomes of the Task Force on Teaching and Learning will be interesting.

Participants shared what they took from today: didn’t know so much going on, cross-disciplinary course w/ CBL, team teaching and co-teaching with community, structured level of CBL and ways to potentially connect and build, exciting to see SFU participating in these discussions, glad to have community, pleased to hear the faculty specific initiatives in moving this forward, inspired as things are desirable and doable, give students a voice.

Action Items

Contribute to the "Furthering Community-Based Learning" wiki to provide input on furthering CBL at SFU.

Contribute to the "Community-Based Learning" wiki to share what's currently happening in CBL at SFU.

Sign up for the CBL email list by visiting

Do you teach CBL? Send your syllabus to