Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Steps for Faculty New to CBL

Successfully incorporating community-based learning into your course will take thoughtful pre-planning. Remember that community-based learning is not intended to be more work for you or your students. It is not an additional component; rather it is an experiential method of teaching course concepts. The success of your students meeting the course learning objectives and making a difference in the community depends upon a well-integrated package of syllabus, orientation, reflection, and assessment. The Community-Based Learning Staff can help you with any and every step of the process. We are here to help you!

Getting Started

Schedule a meeting with the faculty coordinator for your campus to discuss: learning goals for your course, types of community-based learning projects, whether to require community involvement or have it as an option, how many hours the students will perform, prospective community partners, and more.

Visit the CBL Staff Page

Designate your Course as CBL

Designating your course as community-based learning helps boost enrollment, gives students a heads up that community involvement will be a part of the class, and helps students who are actively seeking community-related courses.

Faculty have the option for their CBL designated courses to be:

  • Listed in the Schedule of Classes
  • Listed on the CBL Courses page
  • Included in CBL Promotional Material distributed to students, advisors, and key student services

Complete the Course CRN Registration

Any courses you have designated as CBL will have a group page in GivePulse. With this online resource, you will easily be able to track your students’ community engagement. Students will be able to report impacts that can be verified by community partners. Students will also have the ability to search and identify community partners and opportunities.

Community Partners

Community-Based Learning is meant to be a mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationship between faculty, students, and community partners. Collaborating with community partners can help you better Identify community needs that may be appropriate for meeting your learning objectives.

Utilize GivePulse to search for partners and also designate specific organizations for your courses

Search GivePulse

Community engagement is not limited to formal groups and organizations. Community partners can be community groups, individuals, next door neighbors, etc. As faculty you have the flexibility to decide who appropriate community partners are for your course.

Guidance for CBL Faculty Partnering with Community Groups/Individuals

Share your course impact

Reporting is made easy through GivePulse! By using the platform, your course and students’ impact will automatically be shared with the CBL Program. If you or your students aren’t actively using this tool, you can also complete the CBL Course Impact Report at the end of the term. Common information includes:

  • general details about your course’s CBL component
  • what community partners you and your students collaborated with
  • number of students engaged in community-based learning
  • number of hours of community engagement

Individual Student Experiences

Encourage you students to utilize the GivePulse platform to keep track of their community engagement hours by creating “impacts.” These impacts can be verified by you and/or the community partner. You can direct students to GivePulse support page on “How to add an impact”

What is Community-Based Learning?

At PCC, Community-Based Learning (CBL) is a teaching method that integrates reciprocal partnerships, community engagement, and critical reflection to meet institutional and course outcomes while developing individual, civic, and social responsibility.

Basic Components of CBL
Connection to Course and Institutional Learning Outcomes
  • CBL activities enhance academic content, course design, and assignments.
  • Course description or syllabus articulates how CBL activities are explicitly linked to course learning goals
Reciprocal Partnerships
  • Partnership with the community is mutually beneficial:
    • Undue burden is not placed upon the Community Partner
    • Activities enrich student learning and add to the capacity of the organization
  • Community voice is included – Instructor collaborates and learns from the Community Partner(s)/Member(s) as co-educator in various aspects of the course:
    • Planning and Design (e.g., learning outcomes, readings, preparation/orientation of students, reflection, and assessment)
    • Implementation (e.g., guest speaker, facilitator of reflection activities, invited to class celebration)
Community Engagement
Critical Reflection (writing, discussing, evaluating)
  • Critical questions that challenge students to consider multiple perspectives and to recognize complexity in a situation or issue that may at first seem to be straightforward.
  • Reflection activities make clear connections between coursework and service
  • Reflection activities are continuously integrated throughout the course.
  • In class celebration and reflection
  • Students’ work is publicly disseminated or shared
    • Reporting course impact to the CBL Program for institutional recognition
    • Nominating students for the Community Engagement Award
    • Class and/or individual student participation in the CBL Showcase

Why Community-Based Learning?

Faculty choose to teach courses with a community-based learning component (either optional or required) as a way to engage students in the classroom. Students in these courses actively participate in the community and relate their experiences to the course material through various methods of reflection (discussion, journal entry, written report, presentation, etc.).

Excerpts from student evaluations and journals:

  • I’m glad my sociology class got me to start volunteering. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do yet I needed a bit of a push!
  • I wasn’t working on something that felt familiar and comfortable, I was in the process of learning completely new skills while at the same time applying them to my real life. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding and challenging academic experience.
  • I loved asking the lady I was folding paper cranes with how long she lived in Oregon and suddenly her amazing life story came out to me unhindered…
  • This project has made me want to pursue my interests because I have gained a confidence that I can and will do excellent things by virtue of my passion for them.
  • This project has shown me how important it is to actually go out and become a part of the community and in doing so has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to gain real world knowledge that no textbook can teach.

How to develop CBL Curriculum? (The Basics)

To Begin
  • Consider the course content outcomes (CCOGs) for the course.
  • What objectives could be met through community involvement rather than a traditional assignment? Is there a research paper that could be replaced by real-life experience and a reflection paper?
  • Try to articulate in writing what you want your students to gain through the experience and how will that be of value to the community. Consider developing learning objectives specific to the Community-Based Learning project.
Selecting projects

Identify community needs that may be appropriate for meeting your learning objectives. You may have your own ideas for potential community partners, you can review the opportunities posted in GivePulse, and you can meet with the community-based learning staff to brainstorm ideas.

  • GivePulse for PCC
  • Meet with partners (site visits with the CBL Coordinator, on your own, visit at service fairs)
  • Are you meeting real community needs?
  • Have you asked the partner if that is what they need?
  • Will all students participate with the same partner? Same type of partner? A few select partners? Any site?
Additional Resources
Developing your syllabus

Students reading your syllabus should be able to identify they are enrolled in a course with community-based learning and what that means for them. Be sure to:

  • Clearly explain the link between the community involvement and the course objectives for your students. Consider adding a CBL statement.
  • Provide opportunities for processing the learning that is taking place with the community involvement. Even if community involvement is an option, you can still infuse opportunities for students who did take that option to share their experiences in writing assignments, discussion topics, readings, presentations, and other activities in the course.
  • The grade is for the learning, not the community involvement. Clarify that the students not only need to complete their community hours/project, but also the reflection component to demonstrate the learning. This is how you will assess the students.
  • Provide links to the community-based learning website
  • Will you require your students to participate, or have it as an option?
  • How many hours will the students need to participate to meet the learning objectives?
Additional Resources
Orientation and Training

In addition to writing about community-based learning in your syllabus, you should talk about it in class, ideally within the first week. Students need to know:

  • How to find their community site
  • How many hours they need to do/What the project will be
  • What forms to turn in
  • What the reflection component will be
  • They should also receive some sort of orientation at the community site.
Additional Resources

None of our students should be left unsupervised while doing their community assignment. Each site has a volunteer coordinator listed in GivePulse. That person, or another from the organization will supervise the students while at the community location.


Reflection is the key way for your students to make connections between their community involvement and your course learning objectives. Reflection can take many forms such as journals, short papers, guided questions, presentations, videos, photo collages, and more. Other ideas can be found here.

Additional Resources
Assessment and evaluation

You assess the student learning and evaluate their performance for community-based learning as you would with other assignments. You are not assigning credit for the number of hours they complete. Rather, you use their reflection work to determine the connections they made to the course learning objectives. You can evaluate their analytical, communication, and critical thinking skills from their reflection papers and presentations.

Additional Resources