Standards for Curriculum-Based Community-Engaged Learning Experiences

To provide a mechanism to account for courses and other learning modules that contain a community-based learning component, an attribute for community-based learning will soon be available in the ECAS system.
Community-engaged learning is an instructional strategy that refers to activities integrated with or related to the course content that are conducted in settings external to the university (e.g., community or field settings, non-profits, businesses, governmental agencies, international settings, etc.) The community-engaged learning (CEL) attribute should be selected, if a course or other learning module contains the essential components listed below.
Essential Components
Courses with the CEL attribute contain all of the following components:
  • At least 25 percent of the course grade focuses on and/or incorporates community-engaged learning whereby student learning from community-based educational experiences is assessed.  The course or learning module also offers a method to assess the learning derived from the community-based experiences.  
  • Course objectives demonstrate an integration of educationally meaningful community-engaged learning to enhance the academic focus of the course.  The community experience also promotes the achievement of University of Minnesota student learning outcomes and/or student development outcomes.  
  • Activities (e.g. readings, discussions, projects, assignments) incorporate the community-engaged learning experience and how it relates to the course subject matter.  Students are also required to analyze their community experiences and synthesize these experiences with other materials in the course or learning module.  
  • Reflection on community-engaged learning experiences is ongoing and includes dialogue about community issues as appropriate to the course or learning module. 
  • If a community-based agency is involved, there is an agreed upon set of expectations and outcomes for all involved.  

Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) Attribute Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the community-engaged learning (CEL) attribute?

A. The community-engaged learning attribute is an option that faculty members can select when developing or revising a course to designate the inclusion of a community-based learning component, including courses such as field studies, service-learning, clinical practica, community-based research and community-partnered courses.
Q: Who developed the CEL attribute?
A: The CEL attribute grew out of a set of best practices for community-based learning experiences identified in the community engagement literature. The attribute was proposed by the University of Minnesota Senate Commitee on Educational Policy (SCEP), reviewed by the University Public Engagement Council and various academic governance groups, and approved by SCEP in December 2014.
Q: What qualifies as a “community-engaged learning component”?
A: While each faculty member determines what qualifies for community-engaged learning in his/her own course, the recommended criteria for using the CEL attribute include the Essential Components listed above. 
Q: What is the purpose of having the CEL attribute?
A: The CEL attribute gives faculty an opportunity to spotlight the inclusion of community-based learning pedagogies in describing their courses.  Recent data reveal that 84 percent of the campus’s undergraduate students believe that opportunities to connect their academic work with community-based experiences are important. The attribute allows interested students to easily locate courses that contain a community-based learning component.  In addition, to respond more fully to requests for data on community-engaged teaching practices, the CEL attribute provides valuable information regarding the number, scale, and frequency of community-based learning offerings.
Q: What kinds of courses might contain the CEL attribute?
A: The CEL attribute can be applied to any credit-bearing, academic course that contains an educational experience embedded in the community.  There is a wide range of community-based experiences that might be incorporated in courses, including internships, service-learning, clinical practica, community-based research, study abroad, off-campus study, community-based capstones, among other off campus experiences.
Q: Who decides whether a course should contain the CEL attribute?
A: The decision is the faculty member’s, guided by the Essential Components listed above. Some departments or college curricular committees may decide to occasionally review their CEL offerings as part of their curricular oversight.  Consideration should be given as to whether the community-engaged learning component is a permanent, regular feature of the course (regardless of who teaches the course), or if the component is a particular instructional strategy that a faculty member chooses to use in his/her teaching of the course.  Consideration should also be given as to whether all sections of a course contain a community-engaged learning component or whether it applies to only a subset of sections.