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High Impact Practices Spotlight Series: Service and Community-Engaged Learning

By Tiffany MacLennan, Maple League Research Fellow and Strategist and Tanisha Campbell, Maple League Student Fellow, Knowledge Mobilization & Community Engagement In today’s High Impact Practice Spotlight Series[1], we look at Service/Community-Engaged learning. In these experiential learning activities, students are intentionally partnered with community organizations to apply and expand their knowledge of classroom topics. Service/Community Engaged Learning has the bonus of bringing students to community service opportunities at an early phase of their life equipping them with skills they can carry onto be better citizens in their communities and beyond.

Dr. Mary Sweatman – Acadia University

Acadia’s Community Development Department’s First Year Experience is a two-day immersion into a local town on day-one and a residential camp experience the next. The purpose is to build relationships and introduce community development skills through experiential learning. Each year we partner with a local community to help generate data on a community issue. The main goals of day-one are to teach the students community asset-mapping techniques and gather contemporary data that is valuable to the town. Depending on the project, we conduct around 50 interviews in the community, analyze the data, and present the findings at a town council meeting (at a later date). After the immersion day in town, we all head to a local residential camp, for an evening of data analysis, debriefing and campfire activities. The next day is spent rotating through a series of community development activities facilitated by faculty and senior students.

Dr. Vicki Chartrand – Bishop’s University

Learning does not begin or end with the university. It involves many people, places and events over a lifetime, along with all the hardships and beautiful moments along the way. To capture some of these worldly complexes, I like to harness as many of these life elements and their moving parts in my courses. One way this happens is through an internship program I offer through the Centre for Justice Exchange – a collective of academics, students and volunteers who consult and collaborate with varying partners in the justice system, including people in prison. As part of a hands-on educative initiative, students learn about the many levels of thought and intervention in their area of study, while sharing their own skills and resources. Learning as such is a point of praxis that invokes conceptual, practical and visceral understandings and exchanges within a broader community. It is therefore not uncommon for transformative shifts to occur as we move through the work, experiences and our sense of self in relation to ourselves and the people whose paths we cross.

Dr. Erin Steuter – Mount Allison University

Community-engaged learning combines community partnerships with academic instruction and critical reflection, creating a rich experience of social and civic responsibility for Mount Allison students. In Dr. Erin Steuter’s Critical Media Analysis class, students completed a unit on fake news, one of Steuter’s areas of research and expertise, and then put their learning into practice. They found a perfect match — Exact NB, a non-profit group that helps citizens recognize disinformation about important issues, including health and politics. The students created a video, along with Professor Steuter, launched on National Fact-Checking Day, that helps the public examine fake news: its sources, who and why it negatively targets, why it gets shared so quickly, and how to deal with it systematically. Although students learn academic concepts in class, community-engaged learning allows them to understand the goals of a non-profit partner and develop skills to make their new-found knowledge accessible to a public audience.

Dr. Angie Kolen – St. Francis Xavier University

Students in HKIN 425: Children Growth and Development (first term; usually 45-65 students) and HKIN 426: Health Education (second term; usually about 60-75 students) are provided with the opportunity to participate in service learning – either with me and the programs I created to ensure sufficient options for EVERY student to participate, if they wanted or with the other 16-20 options Service Learning at StFX arranges (generally about 4-10 students choose this option). FYI, most years, ALL students choose to participate in Service Learning. Fit 4 Life was started in January 2004 to provide a highly active, engaging and positive low organized games program to children in grades 3-4 after school. Fit 4 Tots was started in September 2008 to provide an opportunity for toddlers to explore movement in a uniquely constructed environment for an hour or so each week for 10-12 weeks each academic term. In these programs and the other service learning options students in HKIN 425 and HKIN 426 have the opportunity to learn more about and connect material they are learning in class to children’s physical growth and development (term 1) and children’s health (term 2).


[1] The HIP Visibility Project is a part of a larger HIP project conducted by Research Fellow and Strategist Tiffany MacLennan. The goal of the HIP project is to make HIPs more accessible for both faculty and students. For more information about the HIP project or if you would like to participate, please contact Tiffany at

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