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Community Engaged Learning

This site is for Academic and Professional Services staff members who are either currently running Community Engaged Learning (CEL) modules, or who are interested in integrating a community engagement element to their course(s).

What is Community Engaged Learning at NTU?

Community Engaged Learning is a proven, high impact pedagogical approach that enables students to engage with the community addressing identified needs as part of their course, while also helping them to learn about themselves and reflect on their experiences.

‘Service-learning (sometimes referred to as community based or community engaged learning) is an innovative pedagogical approach that integrates meaningful community service or engagement into the curriculum and offers students’ academic credit for the learning that derives from active engagement within the community and work on a real world problem. Reflection and experiential learning strategies underpin the learning process and the service is linked to the academic discipline.’   European Observatory of Service Learning in Higher Education

Through this engagement students apply their theoretical knowledge to practice, develop transferable skills and become more life-ready. Academics can extend their classroom in the community and have more opportunity for creativity in their teaching. External partners can further their mission and goals which results in the creation of positive social impact.

The introduction of Community Engaged Learning at NTU is in response to a growing sense of the need for the university to engage more profoundly with the local community in multiple ways. NTU has a well established volunteering programme, but there is a desire to link student’s knowledge acquisition in the classroom with the learning located with community partners - both giving valuable learning opportunities.

The aim for CEL at NTU is to provide opportunities within the curriculum that offer mutual benefit to communities, students and the University.

The benefits of Community Engaged Learning

For the student:

  • Develop academic and cognitive skills
  • Personal development
  • Civic mindedness and cultural competence
  • Opportunity to relate theory to practice and an opportunity to gain work like experience

For the community:

  • Directly meets identified needs of the organisation
  • Builds their capacity
  • Builds partnerships with universities

For the university:

  • Innovative pedagogy which enhances learning and teaching
  • Engaged academics
  • Contributes to various University agendas through one activity

What does this look like in practice?

A CEL module could be an optional or core module or a module that contains elements of CEL embedded within it. Ideally, the module would contain some of the research/literature that underpins CEL, and why the University promotes this pedagogy. It will also, importantly, involve some kind of community engagement which could be:

  • A Project addressing creating a brand, increasing engagement with stakeholders, or event planning.
  • Researching a topic that brings real world impact for your organisation, such as evaluating service user experience or exploring local need / provision of services.
  • Design projects, either testing out new ideas or generating designs to address a particular issue such as. making a community space more functional or energy saving initiatives

It is vital that CEL projects also have an element of reflection. Reflection establishes connections between students’ community-based activity and the academic curriculum; students can establish connections, construct meaning, and identify both areas of growth and opportunities for improvement.

Below are some examples of Community Engaged Learning currently taking place across NTU.

Undergraduate Continuing Professional Development 

School: Nottingham Business School

Project name: #NBSBright

Academic Lead: Caroline Berrill

Brief overview: Students working as a group to work on a business challenge submitted by local VCS organisations as part of final year UG CPD module.  Students produce a PowerPoint presentation with narration with recommendations for the organisation.

Employment and Enterprise

School: Nottingham Business School


Academic Lead: Sarah Gibbons


Brief overview: Students undertake a work or work like experience by either volunteering individually in the local community, working on a group project with local VCSE organisations, or taking part in an Enterprise Challenge with all money raised going to the John Van Geest Centre, allowing them to understand theory and apply it to their practice.

Experiential Learning

School: Nottingham Business School


Academic Lead: Angela Scott


Brief overview: Credit bearing experiential learning projects related to students’ specific degree. Each brief is pre-approved with the participating VCS organisations, who act in effect act as 'clients' to the student team who are acting as consultants / business advisers.

Theory and Application to Mental Health 

School: School of Social Sciences


Academic Lead: Mhairi Bowe


Brief overview: Students are assigned real-world challenges supplied by partner VCS organisations, and conduct analysis of existing empirical and public sources to provide evidence-based solutions for organisational practice. These findings are then disseminated at a student conference using a poster presentation. Students also provide a consultancy report for their assigned organisation.

Criminology in the Real World 

School: School of Social Sciences


Academic Lead: Andrea Lyons-Lewis


Brief Overview: This module uses a service-learning methodology with students working in small groups to apply their criminological thinking and knowledge to real world issues. Using action research and participatory working methods, students work with practitioners, academics and community members to propose and explore potential solutions to ‘real world’ criminological issues. Through the process of reflective practice, this module seeks to better understand how we might align the ‘doing’ of criminology with concepts such as active citizenship, identity, human rights and ultimately, ‘justice’.

Critical Service Learning in Sociology

School: School of Social Sciences


Academic Lead: Sharon Hutchings


Brief Overview: This module offers a version of service learning that sits within a social justice orientation, known as critical service learning. Simply put, this involves student groups working in partnership with our not-for-profit community on social justice issues for the purpose of social change and mutual benefit. For academic year 21/22, students will be working in groups to look at two areas of work in the city – supporting individuals with no recourse to public funds and low paid, insecure work.

How Community Engagement and Volunteering can support you

Training for staff:

  • Monthly CEL overview sessions. These live, interactive sessions (Teams or in person) will run once a month for academic staff interested in Community Engaged Learning. You can also find a pre-recorded information video on this site which is available to watch anytime.

Book live session here – coming soon.


Training for students:

  • Live, interactive sessions (Teams or in person) will run fortnightly aiming to prepare your students to work with external partners. Covering topics such as:
    - Understanding what is meant by community engagement
    - Communication
    - Cultural intelligence

Signpost you students to book onto these session here – coming soon.

Biannual Networking sessions:

  • An opportunity for academic staff to network with local community partners, aiming to:
    - Identify possible collaborative projects
    - Discuss ways for working together
    - Initiate partnerships

Support with finding a Community Partner:

  • CE&V can make contact with our Community Partners with requests to develop Community Engaged Learning Projects. Complete this form to let us know about your Community Engaged Learning project idea and how we can best support you.

Join the Student Community Engagement (SCE) TILT group here.

  • Through collaboration with internal and external partners, the group provides a space to discuss Student Community Engagement (SCE) activity, and to better understand, facilitate and advocate for this activity at NTU.

Join the Community Engagement/Service Learning National Network here

  • This network brings together academic and professional services staff from HEI’s across the country working on Community Engaged Learning and Service Learning initiatives

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418