University of Vermont

Office of Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning

What is Community-Engaged Learning?

Students stuying the sociology of disasters participate in mobile home park clean-up after Hurricane Irene.

Students present their findings of the Statehouse Forest.

Community-engaged learning refers to a number of experiential learning opportunities that involve engaging with real-world problems in a real-world context. Community-engaged learning includes "service-learning" but emphasizes reciprocity, recognizing the at-times fraught nature of the term "service."

The CUPS Office supports academic service-learning — also known as community-engaged learning — at UVM. In this context, community-engaged learning includes:

  • Direct service
    Volunteer hours in an agency or organization, such as tutoring for the Boys & Girls Club, volunteering at King Street Youth Center, or clean-up after Hurricane Irene.
  • Problem or project-based service
    Students work on problems or projects created to benefit community partners, such as public-service announcements, watershed assessments, or engineering designs.
  • Community-based research
    Students carry out research projects or parts of projects designed by or for community partners, such as tree inventories, interviews with clients, or policy research on issues of concern to community partners.

Community-engaged learning is one of a number of "high-impact practices" (Kuh 2005) documented to improve student success: from retention to critical thinking skills, to workforce preparation. UVM students who have taken a service-learning course see substantial educational benefits. These students score significantly higher than the student body as a whole at acquiring work-related skills, solving complex real-world problems, and working well with others. They also rate UVM higher in terms of academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and enriching educational experiences.

For examples of community-engaged learning at UVM, see our News & Stories column.


Last modified May 08 2014 09:40 AM