Community Based Learning

Evaluation of the Community Based Learning Program of the First Year Composition Program

Principal Investigators:

  • Christine Venter, University Writing Program
  • April Lidinsky
  • Ed Kelly
  • Shannon Gayk

Contact:Christine Venter,

This study will evaluate and assess the Community Based Learning (CBL) initiative offered by the First Year Composition (FYC) Program. The study will attempt to determine how effective CBL is, in meeting the overall goals of FYC, and in enhancing student learning. In evaluating the CBL program, the investigators will attempt to determine how, and/or if, the quality and type of experience enjoyed by students at various service sites in the community, impacts and influences student learning.

Project Status


Four years ago, the First Year Composition introduced a new component to the required First Year Composition class. Students could elect to take a community based learning composition class. The new class required students to complete all of the same assignments as “regular” first year composition classes, and in addition required them to perform 15 – 20 hours of service in one of four sites selected by the instructor. Students were also encouraged to complete their written assignments on topics that related to their service sites.

Now that the CBL sections have been offered for four years, we wanted to look at how effective they have been in advancing the goals of FYC; specifically, teaching students how to identify issues and construct arguments using a variety of sources. We also wanted to research whether the CBL sections have been effective in “educating for justice” – part of the University’s overall mission.

Methodology and Progress:

Surveys which seek information about participants’ class/course choices, service activities, and writing skills post FYC have been mailed to forty participants. These participants are composed of both former CBL students and former “regular” FYC students. In addition, in depth interviews with four students have been conducted to date. (These students are all former CBL students – more interviews with “regular” FYC students will be conducted).

I have also met with Jay Brandenburger from the Center for Social Concerns to get his permission to access some of the survey data that has been generated by the CSC with regard to students’ service activities, post-college and career choices. I hope to complete an article on this study this summer.