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Community Engagement and Research: Scholarship with Community

Exploring collaborative partnerships that can work with community members and organizations to do research with, not just for the community to address issues relevant to them.  Research should also be reciprocal through mutual input and benefit

What is Participatory Action Research?

A participatory, democratic process concerned with developing practical knowing in the pursuit of worthwhile human purposes, grounded in a participatory worldview….[and bringing] together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others in the pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and communities (Reason & Bradbury, 2001).

What is Community-Based Participatory Research?

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach to conducting research by equitably partnering researchers and those directly affected by and knowledgeable of the local circumstances that impact health. To inform research design, implementation and dissemination, this approach challenges academic and community partners to invest in team building, share resources, and mutually exchange ideas and expertise.

What is Service-Learning Research?

Research conducted by faculty and practitioners of service-learning on outcomes of pedagogical strategies, experiences of encounter through service, and regular reflection.  Service-learning research and community-based research have helped faculty to develop courses and curricula, shape service experiences, integrate community practice and learning through reflection, and effectively facilitate class discussion.  Research outcomes have also been utilized by faculty and departments when making the case to incoming students and members of their university’s administration for community-engaged scholarship.

How can service-learning support faculty scholarship?

Faculty often find that service-learning can contribute to their scholarship. Some service-learning research contributes to the growing knowledge base of service-learning and pedagogy. Research of this type might be a comparative assessment of student learning in classes with and without service-learning, a case study of community partnership, or an assessment of university support for service-learning and other forms of community engagement. Faculty also incorporate the use of service-learning into an existing research agenda. Examples include studies of the impact of changes to health-care policies, the process of gentrification, the psychology of women in abusive relationships, or national trends in attitudes about participatory democracy.

The Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning (MJCSL) is the leading peer-reviewed multi-disciplinary journal designed to promote the scholarship of civic engagement and service-learning. Abstracts of articles are available at Dozens of academic refereed journals publish articles incorporating service-learning.

Consulting journals and the resources noted here and at the end of this handbook can point you in the direction of faculty with similar interests, publication opportunities and resources directly related to your discipline. The following professional and scholarly journals have published service-learning scholarship.

How can undergraduates participate in community engaged research?

Undergraduate students can be offered opportunities to work with faculty doing community engaged research, and even conduct their own research when given the tools and skills to do so.

Students passionate about a particular issue area can identify opportunities, needs and partners for community-engaged research in partnerships formed through community-based learning.  Building trust, familiarity, and investment requires shared understanding over time and relationships with many staff and service recipients to guard against loss o interest through turnover.  Undergraduate research assistants highly benefit from experience relevant to tangible issues they have encountered and can support research while earning course credit and building their research skills.

Reardon, K. M. (1994). Undergraduate research in distressed urban communities: An undervalued form of service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 1(1), 44-54.

Rueda-Riedle, A., & Stockmann, D. (2006, June). Evaluating a community-based research program: Methods, findings & lessons learned. Presentation at the DSA Symposium.

Schaffer, M. A., & Peterson, S. (1998). Service learning as a strategy for teaching undergraduate research. The Journal of Experiential Education, 21(3), 154-161.

Strand, K. J., Cutforth, N., Stoecker, R., Marullo, S., & Donohue, P. (2003). Communitybasedresearch and higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Examples of community based research at George Mason

Literature on Community Engagement and Research

Bringle, Robert G., and Julie A. Hatcher. “Implementing service learning in higher education.” The Journal of Higher Education (1996): 221-239.

Astin, Alexander W., et al. “How service learning affects students.” (2000).

Eyler, Janet, Dwight E. Giles Jr, and John Braxton. “The impact of service-learning on college students.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 4 (1997): 5-15.

Driscoll, Amy, et al. “An Assessment Model for Service-Learning: Comprehensive Case Studies of Impact on Faculty, Students, Community, and Institution.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 3 (1996): 66-71.

Horowitz, Carol (2009).  Community-Based Participatory Research From the Margin to the Mainstream.  American Heart Association: Key Outcomes in Research. 

Reason, Peter, and Hilary Bradbury (2001). Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice (eds.). Sage, 2001.

Nationally recognized community engagement groups

Campus Compact (National and Regional)

National Corporation for Community Service

Youth Service Association

National Youth Service-Learning

Community engagement examples beyond Mason

University of Michigan Ginsberg Center for Service-Learning

Providence College Feinstein Institute for Public Service

University of Massachusetts Community Engagement and Service-Learning

Local organizations with interest in partnering with Mason:

ASO Symptaco


FACETS (Robinson Square)

Northern Virginia Family Services

Friends of Guesthouse

Bethany House

Carpenter’s Shelter

Academic Exchange Quarterly

Active Learning in Higher Education

American Behavioral Scientist

Alternative Higher Education

American Education

American Journal of Education

American Psychologist

Business Communication Quarterly

The Chemical Educator

College Composition & Communication

College English

College Teaching

Curriculum Inquiry

Democracy & Education


Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis

Educational Gerontologist

Educational Leadership

Educational Record

The Generator: Journal of Service-Learning & Youth Leadership

Harvard Educational Review

Innovative Higher Education


Journal of Adolescence

Journal of Adolescent Research

Journal of Business Education

Journal of Business Ethics

Journal of Career Development

Journal of Career Planning & Employment

Journal of College Student Development

Journal of Cooperative Education

Journal of Experiential Education

Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences

Journal of Health Education

Journal of Higher Education

Journal of Moral Education

Journal of Nursing Education

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Journal of Research & Development in Education

Journal of Social Issues

Journalism Educator

Liberal Education

Metropolitan Universities Journal

Phi Delta Kappan

PS: Political Science & Politics

Psychological Science

Social Policy


Teaching Sociology

Theory and Research in Social Education