Community service is defined in the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary as, “work that people do to help other people without payment, and which young criminals whose crime was not was not serious enough for them to be put in prison are forced to do”(Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary 2004).
Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. In the words of the , it is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” Or, to quote Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler (winner of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning) and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., it is
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Typically, community engagement is incorporated into a course or series of courses by way of a project that has both learning and community action goals. This project is designed via collaboration between faculty and community partners, such as non-governmental organizations or government agencies. The project asks students to apply course content to community-based activities. This gives students experiential opportunities to learn in real world contexts and develop skills of community engagement, while affording community partners opportunities to address significant needs. Vanderbilt University’s Sharon Shields has argued that service learning is “one of the most significant teaching methodologies gaining momentum on many campuses.” Indeed, when done well, teaching through community engagement benefits students, faculty, communities, and institutions of higher education. Below are some of the benefits that education researchers and practitioners have associated with community engaged teaching.