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Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is an active learning strategy that incorporates community-based projects and activities with educational experiences. CEL aligns the educational and scholarly activities of TCNJ with the interests and needs of community organizations and members in order to enrich academic opportunities for TCNJ faculty and students. At TCNJ, staff at the CELR Center work with you to develop course-specific CEL projects that complement the established learning objectives of courses while adding to the teaching and learning experience.

More specifically, Community Engaged Learning (CEL) at TCNJ is an educational experience in which students:

  • Engage in an organized community-based activity or project that addresses community-identified needs; and
  • Participate in facilitated reflective activities that deepen participants’ ability:
    • to apply skills and knowledge gained from curricular and co-curricular experiences;
    • to understand and address the causes and contexts of community concerns; and
    • to engage and learn with diverse communities.

A note on terminology: TCNJ uses the term “community engaged learning,” as opposed to “service learning,” because we want faculty, students, and community members to be active participants in, and co-beneficiaries of, the educational and service components of the project. Located in the communities that TCNJ is already a part of, CEL participants work in collaboration with and alongside community partners, rather than unidirectionally serving them. Furthermore, CEL aims to engage faculty, students, and community partners in the broader civic and social engagement efforts that sustain our democratic political culture. Rather than only volunteering or serving, we hope that CEL experiences will encourage all involved to become civically engaged in their communities throughout their lives.

CEL Learning Outcomes:

Social Knowledge Identify the causes of significant social issues
Diversity of Communities Engage as part of diverse communities in culturally and contextually appropriate ways
Application of Knowledge Analyze and address social issues using disciplinary and/or course-based knowledge and skills
Systems and Structures Identify how systems of privilege and oppression affect individual and group opportunities and experiences
Civic Responsibility Actively contribute to sustaining and enhancing communities as members of local, regional, national, and global communities
Civic-Identity and Commitment Demonstrate goals to live a life of critically informed community engagement

CEL and TCNJ’s mission

Community Engaged Learning is built into the mission and educational expectations of TCNJ.

Community Engaged Learning has been a part of TCNJ’s culture since its founding in 1855 as the New Jersey State Normal School. TCNJ’s current mission statement describes serves as a foundation for CEL. The concluding sentence of TCNJ’s mission statement claims:

Proud of its public service mandate to educate leaders of New Jersey and the nation, the College will be a national exemplar in the education of those who seek to sustain and advance the communities in which they live.

CEL embodies this public service mandate too “seek to sustain and advance the communities in which they live,” and helps prepare TCNJ students to life-long engaged community members who can use their TCNJ education to contribute to the civic and social life of their current and future communities.

CEL and Liberal Learning

In addition, building on TCNJ’s mission, CEL is supported through the current Liberal Learning expectations for Civic Responsibilities:

Students should seek to sustain and advance the communities in which they live by engaging in an informed and academically based service experience.

  • Students should think critically, analytically, and inclusively about their society.  They should develop a hands-on understanding of class, power, and privilege.
  • Students should develop the means to apply the knowledge they gain from their academic experiences within the context of everyday community life.   They should understand how to accept responsibility for active and engaged citizenship in a complex and diverse society

CEL experiences provide the opportunity for students to “develop a hands-on understanding of class, power, and privilege” and to begin understanding the key role that “active and engaged citizenship” play in maintaining a democratic society. Students meet this Liberal Learning requirement through successful completion of their First-year CEL requirement, IDS103.

CEL and Signature Experiences

Finally, CEL is one of TCNJ’s five signature experiences, marking it as a fundamental part of a TCNJ education and as a key experience for all TCNJ community members. Community Engaged Learning is defined by the Signature Experience Task Force:

Through curricular and co-curricular activities, students extend themselves and learn by service to and engagement with diverse communities on and off campus.

As the expectations for Signature Experiences are established, we anticipate that the role CEL plays in students’ TCNJ experiences will continue to grow and be integrated throughout their time at TCNJ.