Community Based Learning and Research

Faculty Resources

Faculty working with students in the wetlands.

On this page: Designing a CBLR Course | Steps in Planning a CBLR course | Course Design | Sylabus | Community Partnerships

Faculty Resources

Designing a CBLR Course 

The Office of Community-Based Learning and Research partners with faculty across all academic disciplines to support the development of community-based learning pedagogy. The success of community-based learning relies on the fit between courses’ academic goals, community-based opportunities, and thoughtful integration of community-based learning into course content.

Click here to learn more about How the CBLR Office Supports Faculty

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Steps in Planning a CBLR course

  1. Plan the community-based learning course well in advance.
  2. Reach out to the Office of Community-Based Learning and Research to express your interest in community-based learning.
  3. Work with your program curriculum committee to determine if your course should be designated as a community-based larning (CBL) course. If so, simply let your Time Schedule Manager know and he/she will designate the course as it is entered into the schedule.
  4. Send a copy of your syllabus–even from prior quarters to the CBLR Office. This starts the planning process to develop an excellent community-based learning course founded on the learning objectives of the course.
  5. Determine an approach to community-based learning (placement, project, research, etc.). View examples below.
  6. Write (or revise) the syllabus to reflect integration of community-based learning.
  7. Work with CBLR Office to identify mutually beneficial community partners for your course, or come with organizations/companies in mind that you would like to work with.
  8. Community partners input intentionally developed placement/research/project descriptions into EXPO (online matching database for faculty, students, and community partners).
  9. First week of course, CBLR staff member with community-partners present in class the CBLR options to your students, and explain the student logistics of registering on EXPO.
  10. CBLR team supports faculty, community partners, and students throughout the quarter.

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Course Design

For community partners, students, and faculty to have the best experience with a community-based learning course, the importance of integration on the part of faculty cannot be underestimated. Integrating community-based learning into the course design takes time to successfully plan.  


There are a variety of ways for faculty to integrate community-based learning into their courses. Below are a few common approaches:


Students choose a community agency from a list of opportunities predetermined by their professor and serve for a set period of time (15-20 hours over a quarter). Typically placement-based opportunities are individual learning experiences for the students. Placement community-based learning can involve both direct and indirect service. Examples include tutoring programs, public awareness campaigns, generating marketing resources, planting native species, program evaluation, etc. The placement-based approach works particularly well in introductory level courses.


Students work on a project identified by a community agency. Students either work in small groups or a whole class takes on a project. Students draw upon previous knowledge and course content to successfully complete the project. Often students present the outcomes to the project to the community agency at the end of the quarter. Examples include GIS community mapping project, statistical analysis, video production, software design, survey development, business plans, etc. The project-based approach works well in higher level courses.


Students work on a problem identified by a community agency. This model is similar to project-based work, although an outcome is not predetermined, and the project is loosely structured to allow for discovery. Problem-solving approaches can be well suited for capstone and graduate level courses.


Community-based research often involves placement, project, and problem solving work. Students conduct research around a question defined by the community agency. Research projects can be broken down and completed within one quarter, or divided over two-three quarters with the faculty member sustaining the information from one quarter to another. Community-based research works well in research method courses, capstones, and graduate level courses. 

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A syllabus for a community-based learning course should include the following components:

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Community Partnerships

The Office of Community-Based Learning and Research strives to model reciprocal, sustainable, and collaborative community partnerships with non-profit, educational, and governmental organizations. The Office maintains connections with an existing group of agencies. Please contact Kara Adams, at to inquire about existing UW Bothell community partners.

We value and encourage faculty members to work with their existing community-based research partners to further research goals through embedding community-based learning into their courses. As an example, check out UW Bothell faculty member, Shauna Carlisle’s article, "Increasing Student Evaluation Capacity Through a Collaborative Community-Based Program Evaluation Teaching Model."

In addition, we work with students’ community connections. Recognizing that UW Bothell students come from a variety of geographical locations in the Greater Seattle area, we honor the community connections that students create in local neighborhoods. Students have the opportunity to “self-place” with a community organization that they have prior connection with, AND in which the students’ involvement meets the learning objectives of the course.

Engagement with the Community

Faculty engagement with the communities in which students are serving enhances student learning and community impact. Here are key strategies to strengthen faculty partnership with community agencies:

  • Visit community agencies and meet with staff and other stakeholders.
  • Whenever possible, consistently address the same issue and work with the same community agency.
  • Recognize community agency staff as co-educators.
  • Invite community agency staff to present in class and/or view final student presentations.
  • Emphasize to students the importance of keeping commitments made to community agencies.

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