Elon faculty, staff members receive IN/CO grant from the Colonial Academic Alliance to support community-based learning efforts

This two-year award will support multi-institutional work to better prepare students and institutions to develop and sustain community-based learning initiatives.

A team of Elon faculty and staff, led by Director of Project Pericles and Professor of Psychology Mathew Gendle, have secured a two-year grant of $40,000 from the Colonial Academic Alliance that will support ongoing multi-institutional efforts to prepare students and universities to better incorporate current and emerging best-practices in community-based learning into their academic and co-curricular programming.

This grant will support opportunities for Elon’s team to partner with colleagues at Drexel University, the University of Delaware and UNC-Wilmington to collaboratively advance this work.

The other members of Elon’s project team are:

  • Carrie Eaves, Faculty Fellow for Civic Engagement and Associate Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies
  • Bob Frigo, assistant dean of Campus Life and Director of the Kernodle Center for Civic Life
  • Phillip Motley, Faculty Development Fellow for Service Learning & Community Engagement and Associate Professor of Communication Design
  • Amanda Tapler, associate director of Project Pericles and senior lecturer in Public Health Studies

Community-based learning/service learning is widely recognized as a critical pedagogical component of high-impact undergraduate education. However, multiple substantive criticisms exist in regards to how community-based learning/service learning initiatives are often conceptualized and operationalized as a pedagogical practice. Examples of these criticisms include:

1) A failure of many institutions to move beyond rhetoric and superficial statements and create programs that are truly “engaged, democratic and transformative.”

2) A lack of programmatic frameworks that are just, ethical, sustainable and incorporate community partners as true equals.

3) Limited recognition that although community-based learning/service learning programs have a primary mission of student education and development and are not NGOs, they must still accord equal importance to both student learning and community outcomes.

4) Demographic assumptions about student participants (such as age, life status and relative economic position) that exist at the core of many community-based learning/service learning programs that often constrain access and inclusion.

5) A failure to develop critical consciousness amongst student participants, which then functions to perpetuate power differentials and patronizing, colonial, hierarchical, and privileged attitudes regarding those being “served.”

6) A lack of adequate preparation to equip students to be effective change agents within their partner communities.

With support from this grant, this multi-institutional team intends to develop and disseminate publically available resources that can be utilized to address these concerns, advance institutional-level conversations around best practices in community-based learning, and facilitate the implementation of these practices. It is hoped that this work will ultimately play a role in driving meaningful advances in community-based learning program development, assessment, and accountability across a multitude of academic contexts and spaces.