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Modes and Approaches to Community­-Based Learning

Community-based learning refers to a broad spectrum of curricular activity that connects students to communities for the purpose of deepening learning. Community-based learning can include a variety of modes, including but not limited to service learning or volunteering; collaborative projects with community partners; clinical education, student teaching, and internships; bringing community collaborators into the classroom; study trips and immersive engagement with community experts.

1. Study Trips

Study trips include field trips, service trips, and participant observation and shadowing.

Examples of study trips at UR:

  • Students in FYS 100: Why do we Build? Why should we care? took a trip to the East End Cemetery, where they documented and collected information for their research on individuals buried in the cemetery and their history in Richmond.
  • Students in PSYC 300: Methods and Analyses and PSYC 449: Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Health went to the Valentine Museum’s “Pandemic: Richmond” exhibit, where they learned about the historic impact of diseases such as influenza and polio on Richmond residents.
  • Students in AMST 201: Introduction to American Studies traveled to Monument Avenue and Hollywood Cemetery to examine the memorials themselves, as well as their location and context, to connect with course curriculum on memory and memorialization.

If you're planning a study trip, check out this guide to planning effective study trips, written by the 2014-15 CBL Faculty Learning Community.

2. Student Volunteering

Student volunteering, sometimes also referred to as service learning, is volunteerism that connects back to classroom learning.

Examples of student volunteering at UR:

  • Students in LAIS 301: Spanish in the Community volunteer in various local Spanish-speaking communities and connect these experiences to their classroom learning.
  • Students in IDST 290: Healthcare, the Environment, and Biomedicine volunteered at local health-related organizations, including CrossOver Health, the Richmond City Health Department, VCU Health System, and the James River Association.

3. Collaborative Projects with Community Partners

Collaborative projects with community partners include data analysis and research projects, producing community-engaged creative works (such as documentaries, murals, or exhibits), organizational studies and consulting, and sharing course materials.

Examples of collaborative projects with community partners at UR:

  • Students in FYS 100: Storytelling and Identity partner with incarcerated individuals to share memoir storytelling as a way to build bridges between separate individuals. They work together afterward to produce a creative project which captures the experience of the storytellers.
  • Students in ACCT 329: Fundamentals of Financial Accounting volunteered as certified tax preparers with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at various United Way partner sites across the Richmond region.

4. Bringing Guest Speakers into the Classroom

Guest speakers from the community come to class, usually to share their expertise and experience in a subject.

Example of guest speakers in UR classrooms:

  • Students in EDUC 517U: Foundations of Education heard from a panel consisting of experienced current educators in Richmond area public and private schools, focusing on real-life work experiences and guidance to the future K-12 teachers in the class.
  • Students in DANC 255: Choreography I learned from Puerto Rican multidisciplinary artist, Lío Villahermosa, who discussed and presented his creative process with students.
  • Students in SOC 302: Social Movements identified and contacted local leaders at community organizations, and organized a panel for a class discussion.
  • Students in IBUS 388: Doing Business in Latin America learned from Hank Selby, a Richmond-based consultant and expert on international shipping, and connected his guest lecture to their client company of the semester, Hamilton Beach Co.

5. Clinical Education, Internships, and Student Teaching

Students complete an internship, student-teaching, or clinical education with a community partner, usually (but not always) for the duration of a semester.

  • Students in the School of Professional & Continuing studies EDUC 575U: Student Teaching: Elementary Education (PreK-6) completed a student-teaching program at Henrico County Public Schools.
  • Students in LAWE 751: Criminal Placement worked at local government agencies.