Swan, Paterson and Bielefeldt (2014, 362) provide a broad definition for community engagement (CE), namely:
CE in engineering education is a form of active, experiential learning where students, instructors, and the community partners work collaboratively on projects that benefit a real community need and provide a rich learning experience for all participants. The CE must be properly planned, implemented, and assessed with expected outcomes, educational and others, in mind. Critical reflection is part of this assessment effort.
This definition serves as umbrella making provision for several kinds of service-based learning activities. However, three interrelated elements are highlighted, namely:
- The efforts performed must be authentic; could be single or multi-disciplinary; but require conection of service and learning.
- The service, grounded in the needs of a community, must be appropriately developed by jointly by stakeholders, and intentional. The service deepens the learning and sustains the partnership.
- The primary goal of the service is learning, but is enhanced by the service. The learning need both to be planned, in accordance to the educational objectives, and to be assessed accordingly. Structured, critical relfection deepens the learning.
Swan, Paterson and Bielefeldt (2014, 366) summarise the outcomes and benefits of community engagement Download Service_learning_benefits
Swan, C.; Paterson, K. and Bielefeldt, A.R. 2014. Community engagement in engineering education as a way to increase inclusiveness, 357-372. In A. Johri and B.M. Olds. 2014. Cambridge handbook of engineering education research. New York: Cambridge Press.