Community-based learning encompasses a broad spectrum of curricular activities that link learning inside and outside of the classroom.  

This can include a variety of modes including, but not limited to:

  • long-term community partnerships;

  • course projects with a community connection;

  • and bringing community collaborators into the classroom.

Join a community-based learning course

Students interested in taking a community-based learning course can browse the list of current courses.

What do we mean by community-based learning courses?

Community-based Learning (CBL) courses are co-designed with representatives from local organizations and/or public schools and institutions. Students complete project-based work that simultaneously benefits a community-based organization while also fulfilling a specific learning objective determined by the instructor. CBL courses include a theoretical foundation for action taken off campus, and reflection activities enable students to make connections between the intellectual rigors of academic study and the needs and expertise of the community. Reflection also helps students recognize the ways in which disciplinary knowledge can impact the lives of others and inspire them to be accountable both in and outside of the classroom. 

“Community engagement is at the heart of a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education does not just pass along information to students but rather teaches them how to think, read, and write in ways that are intimately related to their experience of the world. Engaging with community is a natural extension of the work students do in the classroom.”

Kristina Reardon
Director of the Intensive Writing Program and Lecturer in English

Modes of community-based learning:

Long-term Community Partnerships

Long-term community partnerships allow faculty members and community organizations to develop relationships and build trust. As a result, courses can be designed that meet both the pedagogical goals of Amherst College faculty and a need articulated by a community partner. Examples of courses that involve long-term community partnerships can be found here.

Course Projects

Whether they are discreet, short-term assignments or structured to take place over the course of the semester, projects can link course content to community contexts and help students to develop discipline-specific skills. Examples of courses that involve community-engaged projects can be found here.

Public Scholarship

Public scholarship offers rich opportunities for students to reflect on how the ideas they have studied apply in new settings and contexts; provides direct opportunities to collaborate with and learn from community members; and allows them to share what they have learned with a broad range of non-academic audiences, using a variety of approaches.

Public scholarship projects utilize a range of forums for presenting student research to a popular audience, including (but not limited to) public lectures, opinion pieces, arts and media, research reports for community partners, apps and websites, and podcasts. Examples of courses that involve public scholarship can be found here.

Class Visits

Local subject matter experts or trainers from the community come to class to share their knowledge and experience in a subject, or to train students on a specific methodology or community-based research practice. Examples of courses that involve local experts or trainers can be found here.

CBL Trips

Community-based learning trips allow students to experience course concepts in contexts outside of the classroom. They can take many forms, from local field trips to place-based or community-engaged research trips. Examples of courses that involve CBL trips can be found here.