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From Framework to Proof of Concept: Developing Support for a Director of Community-Based Learning at Luther College

*Content pulled from proposal materials 

Our project aims to assist in the institutionalization of Community-Based Learning at Luther College through the selection, onboarding, and continued support of a Director of Community-Based Learning, who will work closely with the Associate Dean and Director of CELT, members of the Curriculum Committee, and the Director of Undergraduate Research.

Last spring the Luther faculty approved a new General Education framework, a centerpiece of which is an emphasis on experiential learning and community-based learning (CBL). Specifically, CBL is embedded in our reconceptualized capstone Paidea 450 experience. This course will continue to focus on global ethical challenges, but will also include a CBL component. What this looks like, however, remains to be determined.

The ACM grant will allow Luther College the staffing flexibility to appoint a Director of Community-Based Learning to oversee the implementation of this high-impact, but high-lift pedagogy into Paideia 450 and beyond. Further, the grant will help build institutional capacity and establish a proof of concept to justify continuation with college resources via targeted faculty development and other support resources.

The Director of Community-Based Learning will continue to map where CBL is happening on the Luther campus. They will begin to establish mutually beneficial relationships with community partners, and assist faculty training on best practices in teaching and assessment of this high-impact practice.

Given the primacy of CBL in Luther’s new General Education curriculum, which will begin with the Fall 2023 cohort, it is imperative that this work is conducted in an efficient and effective manner. However, it is equally important that the development of CBL opportunities at Luther is designed with scalability in mind, to ensure the burden of the CBL requirement doesn’t fall disproportionately on our community partners.


The three major goals are to:

1) institutionalize CBL at Luther College as part of our new general education curriculum and beyond,
2) appoint and onboard a new Director of CBL, and
3) begin faculty training of CBL pedagogies.


The primary activities to achieve these goals are to:

1) Develop the job description and assist in the hire of the Director of Community-Based Learning.
2) Provide training and resources to the Director, including membership to Campus Compact Network.
3) Train the new Director in the facilitation of faculty learning communities and other faculty development activities.
4) Collaborate with the Director to develop CBL student learning outcomes for the reworked Paideia 450 course.
5) Begin to build relationships with community partners.

Dissemination Strategies

Luther’s Paideia program is a nationally recognized, high-impact, first-year common learning experience. It is time to be equally intentional with the design of our capstone Paideia 450 experience. Embedding CBL into this course is a novel and potentially transformative element of our new general education curriculum.

We want to be mindful from the start, however, to ensure that the CBL pedagogies embedded in those Paideia 450 courses are mutually beneficial to both our students and to our larger rural Northeast Iowa community.

Distrust of higher education institutions is at an all-time high in America. Community-based pedagogies have the opportunity to demonstrate to skeptics that colleges and universities can indeed have a positive impact on the daily lives of members of their communities. The Luther experiment will make an excellent case study for a white paper or Chronicle of Higher Education opinion piece. We also plan to seek out presentation opportunities at academic conferences such as the AAC&U conference on General Education, Assessment, and Pedagogy to disseminate our learnings and outcomes beyond campus audiences. We’d also welcome having our project leaders share with ACM colleagues leading similar projects through this grant-funded initiative at their respective institutions.

Outcomes and Significance

First and primarily, the director position will establish and maintain community partnerships essential to CBL coursework. As Luther implements this new pedagogical approach, the director will also partner with faculty stakeholders to create a set of CBL ­specific student learning outcomes that will set the expectations of CBL courses within the Luther College curriculum.

The success of the Director of CBL will serve as proof of concept as it will demonstrate the value of the director position in building and maintaining community relationships, as well as support faculty as they design and teach these courses. The Director’s success will make a strong case for the administration to prioritize investment in this role as a strategic long-term position for maintaining community-based learning at Luther College.

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