What Is Engaged Learning?

ENGAGED ACADEMIC LEARNING (EAL) is a pedagogical strategy that emphasizes hands-on experiences in local, national or international communities and involves substantive reflection of that work. Ideally framed as a mutually-beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources among community members, faculty and students, EAL is a term that encompasses academic service-learning, civic education/engagement, experiential education, problem-based learning, and community-based learning. As an approach that is both collaborative and project-based, engaged academic learning combines academic instruction and community-derived expertise from a diverse and dedicated body of stakeholders. 

While traditional EAL terms are still in use, they are under debate. The latest turns in the field of engaged learning have brought forth new language to describe emergent theories and approaches. The following glossary of terms reflects these developments: 

ASSET-BASED LEARNING: 
A pedagogical approach that recognizes the talents, skills, and expertise of communities as opposed to employing the deficit model associated with problem-based learning.

CRITICAL SERVICE-LEARNING:   
A response to traditional service-learning paradigms, this approach requires explicit examination of power dynamics in order to investigate systemic and structural inequality, foster authentic relationships, and affect change through a solidarity-based model. 

ENGAGED SCHOLARSHIP:
The collaboration between academics and individuals outside the academy for the mutually beneficial exchange and co-creation of knowledge and resources to address social issues. Community participatory action research is one example.  

REFLEXIVITY:
This multidimensional approach to reflective practice explores practitioners' underlying assumptions, biases, and prejudices in relation to others.  It requires substantive analysis before, during and after work in engaged learning contexts in order to move from observation to action.