Blog 56

March 2017 Teaching Commons Journal Club – Community Based Research and student learning

Yelin Su, Educational Developer, Teaching Commons

In our March 2017 Journal Club, we discussed the article Community-Based Research and Student Learning ( Hertner, Reid-Maroney, & Bell, 2016). This article is a reflection on student’s learning experience with the community based learning in two third-year undergraduate history courses. Using two community-based research projects as examples, the authors describe and analyze what students had learned, and how, via their active engagement with different components of community-based projects. Drawing on the students’ learning experience with these two projects, this article discusses community-based learning as a transformative pedagogy in that it enables students to actively construct knowledge rather than passively consume textbook information; this approach situates student’s learning in an authentic context where students practice what they have learned to solve real problems; it bridges the gap between classroom learning and the real world;  and it connects students to the community of the target discipline to engage in active citizenship.

Community-based learning has its theoretical foundation in John Dewey’s work and is a form of experiential learning (Mooney & Edwards, 2001).  There is a wealth of literature discussing the benefits and positive impacts of community-based learning on students’ experience and achievement. Our dialogue in the journal club centered on the strategies and supports needed to promote a wider implementation of community-based learning in undergraduate courses, particularly in large classes. Highlights of our conversation include:

  • Start small and scaffold student engagement. Community-based learning can take many forms and students need to acquire certain prior knowledge/skills to enable their successful engagement with the project.
  • An inquiry-based learning model can be adopted to both motivate students and alleviate faculty members’ workload. Start with teacher guided inquiry and gradually move towards student driven inquiry.
  • Engage students in research projects with faculty members. Undergraduate students can work with faculty members on research projects in a variety of ways. Healey and Jenkins (2009) classified students’ engagement in research into four approaches where students can work with faculty members in research via a spectrum of activities ranging from learning about current research in the discipline, practicing research skills/techniques to engaging in research discussion and undertaking research and inquiry. A summary of Healey and Jenkin’s model can be reviewed at .
  • Have a broader definition of what counts as research. This makes it easier (and more motivating) for faculty members to engage undergraduate students in their research.
  • Collect case studies and successful stories to share experience, strategies, and useful resources to encourage and facilitate the implementation of the community based learning.

Do you have any experience (successful or not-so-successful) in integrating community based learning in your teaching? Are there any resources/tools/supports that you have found helpful and/or wish you were available? Please comment using the comments box below.


Hertner, M., Reid-Maroney, N., & Bell, A. (2016). Community-Based Research and Student Learning. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal, 9(2), 1-8.

Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2009). Developing Undergraduate Research and Inquiry.

Mooney, L., & Edwards, B. (2001). Experiential Learning in Sociology: Service Learning and Other Community-Based Learning Initiatives. Teaching Sociology, 29(2), 181-194. Retrieved from .

The Journal Club is an opportunity for colleagues interested in exploring innovation in teaching and learning to collaboratively read and discuss literature in the field. Participants are provided with a journal article identified as a topic of potential interest to be discussed in an informal gathering at the Teaching Commons.

Do you have an article to share or a topic you would like to discuss? Are you interested in leading a conversation of the Journal Club? Contact Lisa Endersby, Educational Developer (

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