COMMENTS SOUGHT:  Working with students on CERL projects 

Community Engaged Research and Learning (CERL) involves students working with community partners on collaboratively-designed, real-life projects, within the curriculum, for mutual benefit. This series of three blogposts is based on experiences from the Erasmus+ funded CIRCLET project where we supported educators to embed CERL projects in academic courses and modules. They are built on our experiences in the project and we are grateful to all those educators who participated in and contributed to our project activities for sharing their learning, challenges and hopes along the way.

This blogpost summarises our advice on working with students on CERL projects. Two further blogposts deal with working with students and working in the curriculum. We would like your thoughts on the following:

  • Are the reflective questions helpful?
  • Do the recommendations make sense? Is anything missing based on your experience?
  • Is there anything from your experience you’d like to share with us?

Please email to share your observations and comments with us, ultimately by 15th of July. 



Reflective questions

  1. What disciplinary knowledge, experiences and capacities do your students have? What challenge you can set them? What can they gain from this process?
  • Consider your own capacities – how can your time, skills and experiences be harnessed?
  • Do you want to make CERL compulsory or optional for students who choose it? What are the implications of that choice for your teaching processes? 


  • Use your reflections about student capacities alongside the course outline to help define your project. Be specific about the challenges students will face and the skills and competencies they will develop as a result.
  • Consider your own capacity and that of your partner organisation. If time is limited, it can be better to work with students in groups or as a full cohort or to work with a small number of individual students.
  • Consider whether you want to engage students in codesigning the learning process, learning outcomes and deliverables. 

Reflective questions

  • What motivates your students and what challenges them, personally – in terms of their own values – and professionally?
  • How will you introduce students to the community partner and the topic they will be working on in their CERL project?
  • How will the students report on their progress to you and the community partner?
  • Will students work together virtually? In person? Do you need to support this process? 


  • Break down roles, timelines and tasks for students
  • Ask the partner to describe to the students why the project matters to them. This helps build a meaningful relationship and supports student motivation.
  • Give the students guidance on when and how to interact with the partner.
  • Ask students what they want from the course to help motivate them. Sharing your reasons for engaging in CERL work can enthuse them. 

Reflective questions:

  • What experience do your students have of reflective practice? How will you model reflective practices for and with them? What reflection models will you use and what kinds of reflection activities will you build in?  Can you include reflection support in class time? 


  • Encourage ongoing reflection and model it for students. Name reflection exercises and build them into class time.
  • Decide whether to build reflection into assessment or not. Students should reflect for themselves, then they share what they feel comfortable with for the assignment.
  • For assessment, develop a clear marking rubric  so they can see what is being assessed.
  • Identify support for yourself to help you reflect on your teaching practice
  • Help students understand why they are reflecting.  Is it to impact on them as an individual, citizen, future professional?
  • Use different reflective methods e.g. pictures, audio or video in order to acknowledge diverse learning styles and needs and make it more manageable for all learners.
  • Add resources on reflection to the course reading list.