Campus view from Ira Allen

CELO works to create a community of practice among UVM faculty built on the high-impact practice of service-learning and community engagement.

Designate Your Community-Engaged Learning Course

Roughly 100 courses each year are designated as Service Learning (SL) or Civic Learning (CL) on the Schedule of Courses — see below for course designation criteria. These courses include everything from introductory-level projects offering initial exposure to community engagement to full-year, service-learning capstone experiences that launch students into life after UVM.

Regardless of previous faculty experience with community-engaged learning or the level at which a course is taught, CELO can provide support to faculty, students, and community partners alike.

Community-Engaged Learning Course Designation

Designating a course as Service Learning (SL) or Civic Learning (CL) in the UVM Schedule of Courses conveys to students that there is a community-engaged component to the course; in some departments this fulfills a graduation requirement. Designation also ensures that our institutional data about student learning experiences is accurate. And importantly, designating courses allows CELO to track and reach out to community partners, ensuring open communication and opportunities for feedback, resource-sharing, and future project development.

New in FY20, the Civic Learning (CL) designation is appropriate for courses that include many elements of service-learning, but that don't require that student work meets the often-high bar of reciprocity. It is intended to both incentivize and recognize the broad range of community-engaged and preparatory coursework being offered, and we conceived of a number of ways that courses might fulfill the CL designation.

The existing Service Learning (SL) designation has been clarified and made more rigorous: the project or service should be reasonably substantial, and must attempt to meet community needs, as articulated by the community partner.

Community-Engaged Learning Course Designation Criteria

UVM follows a pedagogical model of community-engaged learning, rather than an “hours of service” model. This means that designation is based on criteria related to best practices in community engagement, academic rigor and reciprocity, rather than by counting hours. Courses qualify for designation when the community-engaged learning is constructed so as to deepen student learning while benefitting a community partner, regardless of the scale, scope or duration of the project or service.

(Download the below criteria as a Word document.)

CELO course designation criteria

Why Use Community-Engaged Learning Pedagogy?

CELO assists UVM faculty in developing the community-engaged learning components of their courses, in line with their intended learning goals. Faculty may choose community-engaged learning pedagogy in courses for many reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Providing applied or integrative opportunities for students
  • Contributing the skills of their discipline to social change efforts or for the public good
  • Connecting research and community engagement through teaching
  • Connecting students with places, people or institutions to deepen their learning or capacity to act as engaged citizens and community members
Please contact us for individual conversation about ways to offer a greater degree of community engagement in a particular course or department.


High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

Service-learning is one of ten "high-impact practices (PDF)" (Kuh 2008) identified by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for their effect on student learning and engagement. The HIP's include learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments & projects, undergraduate research, internships, capstones, and service-learning, also called community-based learning.

Repeated research has examined the impacts of the high impact practices, when they are most effective, and how their impacts differ among student groups.

Service-learning is unique among the HIP's in its strong associations with "deep learning" (NSSE) including student-reported level of academic challenge, active & collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction and supportive campus environment. These effects are more pronounced for underserved students: students of color and low-testing students (Finley and McNair, 2013). Service-learning is additionally unique in addition that students of color participate at rates higher than white students - the opposite of the case for most of the other HIP's .

Generally, service-learning also is associated with higher levels of academic engagement, greater levels of civic behavior and social responsibility, and an increased sense of self-efficacy (Brownell and Swaner 2010). For a summary of the research on the benefits of SL, visit the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) high-impact practice resources.