Community Service-Learning

CSL Instructor Info

Introducing CSL allows instructors to facilitate a dynamic learning environment for students, while also enriching their teaching practice. As one instructor put it, “the sky is the limit” when it comes to the creative possibilities for teaching CSL.


How do I get started?

  • Contact the CSL Office.
  • Refer to the CSL Instructors Guidebook
  • Browse past course syllabi found on our website. 
  • Visit the CSL Portal 
  • To ensure that your project is considered for the upcoming Fall/Winter term, we recommend that all Instructors indicate their intention to integrate CSL into a course in the following academic year by:
    • MARCH 1 - Early Call for FALL term (This date is encouraged for permanent faculty)
    • MAY 30 - Final Call for FALL term (This date is for graduate and contract instructors)
    • OCT 15 - Final Call for WINTER term

How can I integrate CSL into my already existing course?

Contact us or let us know by submitting an Instructor Intention through the CSL Portal, where you describe the course and the kinds of partners/projects you envision. 

Look at your existing syllabus with an eye to replacing specific readings or assignments to make time for students to complete 20 hours of community engagement outside of regular class time. The key is to make sure that opportunities to reflect on and learn from the CSL experience are woven throughout the course (through discussion, mini-presentations, blogs, journals, check-ins etc.).

I would like to propose a new course with a built-in CSL component– how can I do this?

A new course provides a unique opportunity to be deliberate about your CSL teaching and learning objectives, and about the types of community projects with which you would like your students to engage. 

First consider the model you want to use, and how your course description will reflect that. Then think about the community projects that would work for the course – (e.g. hands-on service delivery, event or project planning, research, advocacy, etc.). Design the course content in such a way that the knowledge being built in the classroom is complemented by the knowledge being developed through the community experience.

Are all of my students required to take CSL or can it be optional?

It is your decision as to whether or not the CSL component is optional or mandatory. There are pros and cons for each approach. If mandatory, some students will not be able to take the course because of other commitments that leave them with little flexible time. If optional, only those students who are motivated will sign up, thereby laying the groundwork for a successful learning experience.

How can I let my students know about CSL?

The best way is through Bear Tracks. Contact your own department staff member to do this. The CSL Office can send notification to your department to request that a note be added to your course in Bear Tracks. Also, CSL staff will come in to your class at the beginning of the term to give a quick overview of CSL. You must arrange for this visit at the CSL Orientation Workshop.

How do I connect the community learning to my course?

What is most important is that you make these connections on a regular, ongoing basis, through discussion, journaling, blogging or whatever other strategies you normally employ to facilitate student learning.

How do I make CSL relevant and motivating (interesting/engaging) to my students?

The CSL experience allows students to see that what they learn in the classroom connects to what they learn in the community. Go beyond a straightforward re-telling of what they are doing in the community to consider why certain things might be happening: address bigger questions, use the lived experience as the starting point for reflection.

How are Community Partners matched to my course?

When ‘matching’ we refer to the goals, objectives, and themes you have outlined in your intention form in the CSL Portal. With this knowledge, our Partnership Coordinators contact potential community partners, describe the course, and then together build a project that helps meet the learning goals of your course and helps fulfill an organizational goal for the community partner.

How are students in CSL placements normally assessed?

Students are assessed on the basis of the learning that takes place through their CSL project. Assignments and evaluations measure how the community experience can be best understood and integrated. Effective assignments have students explore how their experiences in the community exemplify, illustrate, challenge, and/or problematize ideas and concepts from course readings and materials.
Remember: you are assessing the learning not the project task.

What are my administrative responsibilities?

First, access the CSL Portal and fill out an Instructor Course Intention. You must attend an Orientation Workshop before the term begins. This workshop introduces you to your community partners so that you can begin your collaborative work.

For details about what to do once CSL is integrated into your course, please access the Instructor Guide/Student Placement Process.

Key administrative tasks: devise a process by which students pick/are assigned community projects; ensure students complete their Student Sign-up Form by the due date; check in with your community partners a couple of times during the term to make sure things are on track; submit Student Completion Forms to the CSL Office by the end of term; and lastly, schedule fifteen minutes at the end of the term for CSL evaluations.

What if my students are doing research?

If students are conducting research with human subjects as part of your course, then you as the instructor need to obtain ‘course ethics’ approval from the appropriate Research Ethics Board at the U of A. In some cases you might assign research activities in the community; in other cases, students might conduct research with or for a community partner as part of a CSL placement. If you do need to apply for course ethics approval, our Basic Guide to Course-Based Research Ethics for CSL Instructors and Community Partners is a useful resource. Many instructors also find that CSL-based research provides an opportunity to integrate research and ethics training into their courses.

To get started please contact David Peacock.