Document Type



This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only



Publication Details

Education + Training, 2011, 53 (2/3), 218 – 236.


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of student learning from community engagement by critically assessing the implementation of this pedagogical approach in the context of teaching and learning chemistry and also evaluating the role of personal development in student-community engagement.

Design/methodology/approach – A case study on the implementation since 2007 of community-based learning (also called service-learning) projects in an academic department in Ireland is presented. Analysis of assessment grades, student reflective accounts and evaluation questionnaires informs this work as does a recently completed self-assessment of our activities using Shumer’s Self-Assessment for Service Learning.

Findings – A marked improvement in student engagement and confidence and their appreciation of how their subject is applied in real-world situations is reported. Some difficulties arise however in relation to the level of critical thinking and self-awareness evident in reflective writing assignments as the students were generally not experienced in reflection on personal experiences. The extent to which it has been demonstrated that genuine community needs are being met is also an issue in some instances.

Originality/value – The paper describes some innovative practices as CBL is not well-established in the discipline concerned, chemistry, and it has also not often been applied to the benefit of small local businesses. A critical analysis of the process followed when CBL activities were implemented in an institution without an existing, well-established culture of applying this pedagogical approach is provided as this is a perspective not often explored in the literature.



CBL/CBR projects