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Community Engagement & Service

The CB Course Designation

CB Definition

Community-based learning (CBL) (also known as service-learning) at American University is an academic, course-based pedagogy that extends and deepens classroom-based learning through meaningful involvement with a community agency, nonprofit organization, or school.

Through a planned collaboration between the professor/class and community partners, all stakeholders benefit from the CBL experience, both by meeting course objectives and addressing community-identified goals and needs.During the course of the semester, students critically process and reflect on their experiences to heighten their engagement with central academic themes, bridge theory and practice, and contribute to clarification of their own personal values, career goals, and sense of social responsibility. Student-produced CBL service, projects, or research contribute positively to the community or organization.

CB Criteria

  1. The entire class is involved in community-based learning
  2. Reciprocity is a key characteristic of the service-learning partnership
  3. Students complete a minimum of 20 service-learning hours
  4. Faculty members prepare students for community entry
  5. Students critically reflect on their experiences
  6. Credit is earned for learning not for service alone
  7. Students, the instructor, and the community serve as co-educators
  8. All courses are assessed at the student, community partner and faculty levels

Register your CB Course

Are you a faculty member teaching a course with these components?

Register your course for the CB designation to inform your students of its unique nature and receive additional support from the CCES office


Register your Course

1.Entire Class Involved

The entire class is involved in community-based learning; it is integral to course learning goals as indicated on the syllabus and course content informs and enhances the service-learning that occurs.
  • Sample Learning Objectives

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2. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a key characteristic of the service-learning partnership. The community partnership/s meets community or organizational needs and the learning needs of students.
  • Community Partners
  • Sample MOUs

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3. Hours

A minimum of 20 hours of service per semester is expected of CBL students or a comparable project or product if that better suits the course.
  • Sample Hour Log
  • Sample Projects

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4. Prepare for Service

Faculty will prepare students for community entry and responsible participation and communication with community partner staff through academic readings and conversation.
  • DC Facts and Background
  • Identity Preparation for Service
  • Organizational Trainings and Orientations

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5. Critical Reflection

Activities and assignments in the class provide a method or means for students to critically reflect on what they are learning through their community experience. These activities can take multiple forms, including group discussions, online reflective questions, journals, and participatory activities.
  • In-class activities
  • Reflection prompts

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6. Academic Credit

Academic credit is given for the completion of required academic assignments, not for service alone.
  • Sample grading rubrics
  • Sample assignments

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7. Co-Educators

The class fosters learning from other students, from the instructor, and the community;all serve as co-educators.

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8. Assessment

Assessment of service-learning courses is essential. Evaluative feedback is needed from: (1) students, (2) community partner(s), and (3) the faculty member. CCES offers tools to achieve this criteria and will need access to this data.
  • SET evaluation questions
  • Partner evaluation
  • Extended student evaluation

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Designate Your Course

Are you a faculty member teaching a course incorporating community-based learning or research? Follow the link to register your course for the CB designation.

Register your Course

CBL Courses

Interested in teaching, taking, or collaborating with a community-based learning course? 

Review these course offerings.

Fall 2016 Courses

Partner with a CB Course

Seeking support for your community organization? Review this listing of courses and contact to connect with a CBL class.


Fall Semester- August 15

Spring Semester- January 9

Fall 2016 Courses

Become a CBL Faculty Fellow

Join a network of faculty dedicated to community-based learning through participation in the annual Community-Based Learning Faculty Fellows' Institute. 

The Institute is offered every May. Return in the Spring semester for additional details.

More Information

CBL Related Events and Opportunities

Interested in Community-Based Learning? Follow the link below for information on AU's Annual Community-Based Learning events. 


CBL Events