CELR Faculty

Designing a CELR Course

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

Steps in Planning a CELR course

  1. Plan the community-engaged learning course well in advance.
  2. Reach out to Community-Engaged Learning and Research to express your interest in community-engaged learning.
  3. Work with your program curriculum committee to determine if your course should be designated as a community-engaged learning and research (CELR) course. If so, simply let your Time Schedule Manager know and they will designate the course as it is entered into the schedule.
  4. Send a copy of your syllabus–even from prior quarters to the CELR Office. This starts the planning process to develop an excellent community-engaged learning course founded on the learning objectives of the course.
  5. Determine an approach to community-engaged learning (placement, project, research, etc.). View examples below.
  6. Write (or revise) the syllabus to reflect integration of community-engaged learning.
  7. Work with CELR 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, CELR staff member with community-partners present in class the CELR options to your students, and explain the student logistics of registering on EXPO.
  10. CELR team supports faculty, community partners, and students throughout the quarter.

Course Design

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


There are a variety of ways for faculty to integrate community-engaged 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-engaged 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-engaged 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-engaged research works well in research method courses, capstones, and graduate level courses.


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

  • Define community-engaged learning for your course.
  • Clarify the connection between the community-engaged learning and course content (how it is related to the learning objectives).
  • Specify the means by which students will be expected to demonstrate what they have learned through the project (papers, presentations, portfolios, etc.).
  • Clearly describe how the community-engaged learning experience will be assessed and what elements of students’ learning and experience will be assessed.
  • Important dates, including date of the CELR in-class presentation, date by which students must choose the community-engaged learning option (if applicable) and/or their service site, when reflection assignments are due, and the final date to complete service hours.
  • Name and contact information for the Office of Community-Engaged Learning and Research (email, uwcblr@uw.edu)
  • Optional: A description of the community partner organizations (e.g., the organizations’ missions, the populations that they serve)

Community Partnerships

Community-Engaged 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 uwbcblr@uw.edu to inquire about existing UW Bothell community partners.

We value and encourage faculty members to work with their existing community-engaged research partners to further research goals through embedding community-engaged learning into their courses.

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.