Experiential Community-Engaged Learning and Research (ExCELR)

 

 

Experiential Community-Engaged Learning & Research (ExCELR) is a teaching and learning approach that integrates volunteer community work with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.  

 

 

 

Undergraduate or graduate students who participate in classes with an ExCELR option have the opportunity to work on a project with a community organization, and apply the learning that occurs in this community setting to their academic studies.  ExCELR has a particular format that involves the use of intentional reflection as a key component of the learning experience, and students are supported throughout the ExCELR experience. 

Why participate in ExCELR?

  • Increased student engagement in class material and increased retention
  • Allow students to develop professional skills in a real-world setting
  • Increase in emotional empathy and civic engagement
  • Provides organizations with additonal knowledge and human resources to leverage their work
  • Opportunity for faculty to add new dimensions to classroom learning
  • Creates opportunities to accommodate variety of learning styles and sources of knowledge

 

How to Get Involved

Take an ExCELR course

QCST 200 Intro to the Study of Quebec 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

QCST 300 Quebec Culture and Society 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

QCST 440 Contemporary Issues in Quebec 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

ARCH 514 Community Design Workshop 4 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

FREN 755 Poésie québécoise 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

SOCI 386 Contemporary Social Movements 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

 

Integrate ExCELR into a course you teach

SEDE facilitates the partnership between you and the given community partner to co-create projects for students to complete. 

Benefits of the ExCELR option

  • Increased student engagement in class material and increased retention
  • Allow students to develop professional skills in a real-world setting
  • Increase in emotional empathy and civic engagement
  • Provides organizations with additonal knowledge and human resources to leverage their work
  • Opportunity for faculty to add new dimensions to classroom learning
  • Creates opportunities to accommodate variety of learning styles and sources of knowledge

Options for how to fit it into your course

  • Mandatory ExCELR projects that all students registered in the class are required to complete. ​This generally takes the form of one or more projects that individual students or teams work on over the course of one semester, and potentially using some class time to complete or reflect on this work. 
  • Optional ExCELR project in which interested students choose to fulfill the project objectives and produce a deliverable in the form of a research paper and/or final report shared with the community partner. The student does the project in lieu of other coursework and is assessed accordingly.
  • ExCELR project undertaken as part of an Independent Study/Reading Course.
  • If you already offer community-based projects in your course, SEDE can provide pre-placement training for students on equitable community-university collaborations. We can also help facilitate reflection discussions to help students process their experiences and deepen their learning.

Best practices for ExCELR projects

  • The ExCELR component must be clearly defined, with concise learning objectives​
  • The student should be evaluated on their learning rather than their service​
  • Reflection must be a key part of the experience, and serves as a valuable tool for evaluating students' learning​
  • ExCELR components should relate to the course material, so that students have a understanding of the relation between the two​
  • Ideally, the service-learning should be project-based, so that students are filling capacity gaps in the organization with their unique skills​
  • Projects should be co-created with community partners, to ensure the community's needs are being met​ and that there is agreement between faculty, students and community partners about project objectives, tasks, and deliverables
  • Students should be made aware of the validity of multiple forms of knowledge (i.e. students should be encouraged to cite community-based knowledge  along with academic research in their assignments)

 

I'm interested! How can I start?

If you are interested in integrating a ExCELR component into your course, SEDE's Community Engagement staff can help you through the process. We are able to help you pair your course with one or more projects in community organizations which would be relevant to the course material.

You can explore more ExCELR resources or please complete the Faculty Interest Form to help us understand your needs, and we will be in touch shortly. 

Become an ExCELR community partner

Benefits of ExCELR

  • Receive additional support to help achieve organizational goals from students who have chosen to work with your organization
  • Gain access to useful, accessible academic research related to your work and use this knowledge for grants, program evaluations, annual reports, AGMs, etc.
  • Grow the organization's volunteer pool
  • Increase public awareness of key issues with youth
  • Projects can be built upon with each new course placement at your organization.
  • Fostering long-term relationships with a university partner and student volunteer base

 

How it works

  • Projects are co-developed between at least 2 months in advance of the beginning of a course (ExCELR projects start in late September and late January).
  • Students volunteer 3-4 hrs/week for approximately 8-weeks with their community partner on their project, and will have until the end of the semester to produce the final deliverables.
  • The professor and the community partner will both be responsible for the student, and will both agree to contribute to the students' education; often, the student will also sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the organization to ensure their accountability.
  • Project specifics will be determined by the community partner and co-developed with a SEDE staff to ensure tasks and deliverables are realistic and have a connection to the course learning objectives.
  • SEDE staff act as a facilitator in the co-development of projects, and will also provide specific training, reflection activities and resources for students to ensure they are prepared and supported during their community projects.

 

 

I'm interested! How can I start?

If you are interested in hosting a ExCELR project at your organization, members of the SEDE staff can talk you through the process. We will discuss your needs and ideas, and can help pair you with a professor and course that complements the project and your work. Please complete this form to help us understand your needs, and we will be in touch shortly. 

For more info download our ExCELR Community Partner Manual

 

Contact: 

Anurag Dhir, Engaged Learning and Access Coordinator, 514-398-3745, anurag.dhir [at] mcgill.ca

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