Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service
Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service

Community-based Learning

Community-based Learning (CBL) is defined as an academic course-based pedagogy that involves student work with disadvantaged and underserved individuals or groups, or organizations working with and for disadvantaged and underserved individuals or groups, that is structured to meet community-defined needs. Critically, course objectives and student community work are fundamentally integrated. The basic aim of CBL courses is two-fold: first, that students’ experiences in community-based work will heighten their engagement with central academic themes and material in the course; and second, that the academic course content will facilitate students’ ability to reflect in deep and constructive ways on their experiences working in the community.

Our Model

The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is responsible for designating courses as “community-based learning” courses. Crucially, a community-based learning (CBL) course involves work with disadvantaged and underserved individuals and groups. Such work has traditionally been called “service-learning.” The language of CBL attempts to capture Georgetown’s central commitment to working with community representatives in designing CBL courses, courses that value the contributions of both campus and community to the learning experience of the students.

The community-based learning model at Georgetown entails that each enrolled student complete at least 20 to 40 hours of structured community-based work, along with designated course assignments requiring active integration by students of their community-based work and central course themes and materials through course assignments, such as papers, reports, oral presentations, or exams. Through this model, individual students might be working with different CBOs; small groups of students might be working with a few CBOs; or all students in the class might be working together on one large project for one partner CBO. Courses under this model are offered at both 3 and 4 credits.

  1. CBL as an ‘embedded option’ within a course. Students choosing the CBL option enroll in the CBL section for the course during pre-registration or are moved into the CBL section of the course after Add/Drop. Depending on the specific course requirements, Each student completes at least 20 to 40 hours of structured community-based work, along with designated course assignments requiring active integration by students of their community-based work and other course materials. In this model, the course instructor designs the course to include ‘tracks’ for students, one of which involves structured community-based work and its related assignments, such as papers, reports, oral presentations, or exams. Students who complete the CBL option receive the CBL designation on their transcript. Note: Students do not receive an additional 4th credit for completing the “embedded CBL option” of a course. 

CBL Advisory Board

A CBL Advisory Committee has been established in CSJ, which works to support the development and designation of CBL courses. The committee represents Georgetown’s four undergraduate schools:

Criteria for Identification as a CBL Course

Faculty interested in creating a new or transforming an existing course to include CBL, should contact CSJ’s curriculum and pedagogy team at, for an initial conversation and further consultation. CSJ can support faculty with consultation on assignments, pedagogies and evaluation techniques and through community partner connections. Faculty then meet with their program, department, or school leadership to decide upon whether the course is 3 or 4 credits. Next, a draft syllabus is reviewed by the CBL Advisory for feedback and once agreed upon, the CBL designation is attached to the course in the MyAccess Registration system. 

Requirements for a CBL course:

  1. The success of a CBL course requires significant investment in and with the community. Such commitment is not indicated merely by time spent. A “significant investment” requires at least 20 to 40 hours over the semester. Depending on the nature of the community-based work, some portion of this work is to be done on site. It will also entail completion of specific course assignments related to this work.
  2. Student community-based work is designed through collaboration with those in the community organizations with which the work is to be done, so that it is responsive to community-defined needs.
  3. Student community-based work is integral to the course objectives, which are informed by knowledge and skills tied to the disciplinary or interdisciplinary paradigms of the course.
  4. Student assignments require reflective engagement on the intersection of community-based work and other course material. View the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS) resource on reflection.

​MetroCard Program

Interested in getting a MetroCard to travel to your community site? Apply for a metro card via the link on CSJ’s homepage!