Using the Language of CEL in the Syllabus

Using the Language of CEL in the Syllabus
Faculty: If your course contains a Community-Engaged Learning element, your syllabus should clearly state
this intention. The below descriptions represent language you can draw upon to define CEL for your students
and pair with the unique features of your specific project.
Note: The syllabus should establish at a minimum where, how, (and preferably why) the CEL element is integrated into the course as well as its connection to
course objectives, assignments, and evaluation. It is understood that a full project description created in consultation with the community partner may come
later and include student and partner responsibilities, a timeline, and more specific evaluation criteria than is necessarily found in the syllabus.
What is community-engaged learning?
The practice of community-engaged learning (CEL) rests on the fundamental belief that purposeful activities which
thoughtfully engage students with the community can improve the ways students learn content. We do this by linking
theory to application, action to reflection, and the individual to the community through guided curricular opportunities,
believing there is a valuable synergy in combining practical community-based experience with academic study for the
public good. Each has something to offer beyond what might be gained if pursued separately. Ultimately, the work or
activity is shaped by community-articulated needs and designed to benefit the community as well as the student.
Consistent with St. Michael’s focus on social justice, we make a particular effort to partner with organizations working
on behalf of under-resourced or under-represented populations.
There are generally three ways to pursue community-engaged learning:
Academic service-learning
Service-learning is an educational experience in which students participate in a thoughtfully organized service activity that meets
identified community needs and corresponds to the academic content of a specific course. Faculty and community partners help
shape the project/experience, orient students to the setting, and provide guidance, training, and direction along the way. Students
reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course concepts, an enhanced sense of civic
responsibility, and a broader appreciation of the discipline through its connection to relevant social issues.
Community-based research
Community-based research (CBR) proceeds with and for the community (as opposed to traditional research which is done on or
about the community). Rather than being shaped solely by the individual researcher’s interests, CBR is characterized by students,
professors, and the community working together to identify a pressing issue or inquiry, articulate research questions, develop
research instruments, gather and examine data, interpret results, and determine how the information can be used to initiate change
or benefit the community. The extent to which each stakeholder contributes to each phase of the research is determined jointly,
and all contributors are seen as fellow learners, researchers, and collaborators. This form of research often employs the
methodology of participatory or community action research. Ultimately, the work is designed to be of value to a particular
community and contribute to the betterment of that community which lends both relevancy and authenticity to the project.
Course-based advocacy
Course-based advocacy or political engagement is characterized by action which is grounded in and guided by critical discussion and
research of an urgent social, economic, or environmental circumstance. In considering the causes and conditions relevant to underrepresented or disadvantaged populations affected by these circumstances, students become more informed about societal
problems, come to see them as their own, and explore avenues for using their voices to become agents for change. Students might
conduct research for advocacy groups in the community, introduce resolutions, track and contribute to policy initiatives, or mount
awareness/solidarity campaigns with or on behalf of under-represented/disadvantaged stakeholders. The experience is designed to
emphasize the fundamental role activism plays in a democracy and, in particular, how it relates to topical concerns within a specific