What is Community Based Learning?
Community based learning (CBL) refers to a form of teaching and learning that incorporates instruction and reflection into the local community setting. This happens when learners are allowed to participate in meaningful community activities.
CBL is a pedagogical approach that emphasizes reciprocal learning and reflection within the community. It is based on the idea that effective learning occurs through experience, guidance, foundational knowledge, intellectual analysis, contextualization, and reflection. The process of promoting thinking and developing ideas through personal experience, social interaction and observation leads to improved learning experience. Educators can implement community based learning by incorporating prior knowledge and experience of learners into the course content. It is important for the learners to share their social and cultural experiences through discussion to enrich experiential learning in the classroom.
Community-based learning can also be defined as the instructional methods and programs that enable learners to connect what they learn in the classroom with the experiences they encounter in their communities. For example, students can connect what they learn in class with the history, institutions, cultures, and natural environments of their communities. This learning approach takes advantage of the intrinsic educational resources that the community possesses to promote learning for students. After all, the purpose of education and learning is to enable students learn the culture of their communities and become more responsible members of the society.
Importance of Community-based learning
One of the key advantages of community-based learning is that it increases the interest of learners in the classroom. If the students are able to connect the classroom subjects and concepts with their lives, they will be more enthusiastic and ready to learn. Community based learning enables students to connect classroom knowledge with things that are familiar to them, making the learning process more meaningful and exciting.
Community-based learning also improves knowledge retention, skill development, and maturity among learners. The students are able to apply learning concepts and theories in practical life situations. For instance, a learner can volunteer to work in a nonprofit organization and apply his or her skills in practical organizational context. This would enable the student to contribute towards positive change in their community.
Approaches and Methods of Community-based Learning
The methods used in community-based learning are fundamentally complex and sophisticated. Nevertheless, there are at least four common approaches that describe an effective CBL.
- Knowledge application: in this level of community based learning, the student simply connects what they learn in class with their prior knowledge and experiences from the community. In this regard, the teacher helps students to contextualize what they learn by identifying issues and past experiences from their communities that may be explained or addressed using the classroom concepts. For example, the concept of climate change can be associated with the changes in climatic conditions experienced by learners in their communities such as droughts, floods, and rising temperatures.
- Community integration: this approach to community based learning is a bit more advanced than mere application of knowledge because it entails bringing experts from the community into the classroom. In this case, the teacher might invite experts from the local community to talk about an issue related to the concepts learned by students in class. For example, an environmental science teacher might invite an expert in ecology to explain the phenomenon of climate change to learners through presentations. These experts will obviously bring extra learning experiences to the school.
- Community engagement/involvement: In this approach, the students learn by actively participating in community activities. Students may conduct a research project to ascertain the impact and extent of climate change in their communities. Other activities that students may engage in include: weeding, storytelling, helping the needy, planning for a project, implementing an immunization program, raising awareness about certain diseases, or educating the public about financial management. This way, students learn through experience in their communities.
- Individual and social action: This is the most advanced form of community based learning. It involves using the content learned in the classroom to influence action or change in the community. For instance, students may write an OpEd to a local newspaper to express their ideas for social change rather than simply learning from the community. The students go an extra step by using their learning experiences to propose policies and actions for social transformation in their communities, regions, or countries.
Community-based learning is a teaching and learning approach in which students learn through experience from their communities. It enables learners to make connections between the concepts they learn in class and practical life experiences. This makes learning more interesting and meaningful to students.