Center for Social Concern
Community Based Learning

CBL Home

Community Based Learning Home

What is Community-based Learning?

Community-based learning (CBL) is a pedagogical model that connects classroom-based work with meaningful community involvement and experiences.  Within the context of equitable partnership, community organizations and students mutually benefit from the CBL experience both by meeting course objectives and by addressing community-identified goals.  Students may engage with groups including, but not limited to: nonprofits, government agencies, grassroots collectives, and other educational institutions.

The principles of CBL include:

  • Faculty, students, and community groups collaborate in pursuing community-identified goals and academic course objectives over a semester or longer.
  • Courses provide relevant reading, research (if applicable), and evaluation, including reflection, and meaningful learning objectives for community work; faculty meet their course objectives by preparing students for community entry, providing meaningful outlets for critical reflection, and adopting  methods of rigorous evaluation. 
  • Assurance that the community benefits from the relationship with Hopkins and the students’ community-based project.
  • Academic credit is given for classroom and community-based learning, demonstrated by the students’ preparation for their experiential learning, community service activities, reflection and evaluation.  Credits are assigned based on these factors, not on the community engagement by itself.

Components of CBL include:

  • Faculty identifies, creates or develops a course that includes the necessary components for CBL.
  • CBL is not only an internship, field experience or volunteer work. 
  • CBL is not merely “extra credit”.  Even if students are participating in a “fourth credit” option, CBL is not about augmenting their grade.  CBL is a tool for learning and teaching for all parties, and relies on equitable partnerships. 
  • For students who would like to gain experience in communities, CBL is one avenue.  They can also receive special studies credit for CBL, if conducted with guidance from faculty and includes a reflective paper.

How does Community-based Learning work at Johns Hopkins?

Although a number of faculty members at Hopkins already offer classes which incorporates community engagement, these experiences have not been formalized. The Center for Social Concern is stepping into this gap to begin to offer support to faculty who would like to teach community-based learning courses, as well as advocate for community-based learning to be more widely used and accepted on the Johns Hopkins campus.

For the program definition, click here.

For course designation criteria, click here.

How can I get involved?

Please contact the Community Based Learning Advisory Board with your interests and how you would like to participate.

For more examples of community based learning classes, and to learn more about CBL, please browse the rest of the Center for Social Concern's website, or visit the national service-learning learning clearinghouse at



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