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IP902-20 Theory and Practice of Community Engagement

Liberal Arts
Taught Postgraduate Level
Module leader
Elizabeth Chant
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

The purpose of this module is to help students understand how to build or enhance partnerships between organisations. In particular, this module will give students opportunities to examine and understand the relationships between knowledge production organisations--universities, think tanks, or research and development bodies--and community-based organisations in a range of contexts, from the local to the global. This module will support students to engage with a wide range of historical, social, and cultural approaches to the theory and practice of community engagement. Using a student-led Problem-Based Learning approach, students in the module will gain a richly-nuanced understanding of the ways in which transdisciplinary knowledge can be activated and deployed for meaningful engagement in a wide range of professional and social environments. They will achieve this through an exploration of various theoretical frameworks, models of community engagement, historical and cultural contexts, practical case studies, and hands-on experience. Students will learn to apply theories and models of practice in a range of contexts to help them map theoretical approaches to their own strategic goals.

Module web page

Module aims

This module aims to enable students to evaluate and test models and frameworks of knowledge exchange, development, and service in a range of academic and professional contexts. It will aim to help students develop students' understanding of the ethical and epistemological underpinnings of impactful intellectual citizenship, leadership, and knowledge production, helping them to recognise and engage with the long and complex histories of racism, sexism, and other forms of structural discrimination located in a range of contexts (e.g. educational institutions, charity and aid work, governmental structures, private enterprise, and welfare programmes). Within this framework, students will equally be encouraged to reflect on extractive models of community engagement and to think critically about how they can foster mutually beneficial relationships with community organisations.

Using a Problem-Based Learning approach, students will bring their own experiences and interests together in mixed-expertise environments to take complex approaches to a range of case studies. The module also aims to empower students to develop their own reflective model of public engagement and ways to contextualise their own approach with reference to models of impactful engagement from different national, linguistic, and temporal contexts.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

From the Islamic centres of medicine and science in the medieval period to the Florentine humanists of the fifteenth century; from the initial civic-minded curriculum devised by Benjamin Franklin for the University of Pennsylvania to the emphasis on the university as the "mind of society" in the Regina Beach manifesto (1963); from the classical Chinese bureaucratic training centres to the recent rise in interest in the Public Humanities: community engagement with centres of knowledge production have long acted as a driving force of politics, culture, and society.

This module provides an in-depth interrogation of the relationship between knowledge production, community engagement, and social responsibility. Through an exploration of various theoretical frameworks, models of public engagement, historical and cultural contexts, real-world and imaginary case studies, and hands-on experience, students in the module will gain a richly nuanced understanding of the ways in which transdisciplinary knowledge can be activated and deployed for meaningful engagement in a wide range of social and civic environments.

This module will explore models and frameworks of community engagement via theoretical discussions, case studies drawn from the world of work, practical dilemmas and problems, hands-on experience, and the creation of your own model for community engagement in your work. It will also help you develop key employability skills such as the ability to engage with the public through meaningful listening and questioning, the development of writing and presentation skills, assessment of governance and policy, the development of your online engagement skills, and the honing of your ability to research and develop nuanced impact strategies for specific communities.

The course is structured in two halves. In the first half, you will explore the question of why engagement matters. You'll examine the relationships between knowledge production and political structures (e.g. the role of academies in early modern principalities, the public sphere in post-Enlightenment democracies, universities as sites of intellectual engagement, resistance, and social change within twentieth-century totalitarian regimes, etc.). You will critically evaluate different theoretical models of cross-organisational engagement, expertise, and collaborative knowledge production / dissemination (e.g. the deficit model, the impact model, the public humanities, the digital humanities, etc..) and grapple with real-world case studies and dilemmas of public engagement in the UK and around the world.

In the second half of the module, you'll explore the practical side of community engagement through models such as service learning, community collaboration, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, activism, work with non-profits, and analysis of outreach and impact activities at the local, regional, national, and global levels.

In short, this module will allow you to look at community engagement from a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines, empowering you to create, develop, and deploy your own model of community engagement unique to your own interdisciplinary interests and the communities with which you wish to engage.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of different models of community engagement, and identify those that have animated the approach to public knowledge engagement.
  • Critically evaluate different models of community engagement from a nuanced and internationalised perspective.
  • Compare and contrast models and theories of engagement across multiple disciplinary areas and social arenas of activity.
  • Create and defend their own model of community engagement across multiple registers, communities, and audiences.
  • Explain the relationship between community engagement and social justice, including structural inclusion/exclusion issues.
  • Analyse and evaluate governance activities from a range of professional organisations.
Indicative reading list

Indicative list only:

Anne Bergeron and Beth Tuttle, Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement (2013).

Dan Butin, ed., Service-Learning in Higher Education Critical Issues and Directions (2005).

Drew Lindsay, "Foundations Show Signs of Moving Beyond ‘Overhead Myth'" (2016). Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Thomas Haüssler, The Media and the Public Sphere: A Deliberative Model of Democracy. Routledge, 2018.

John Dewey, Experience and Education. Free press, 1938.

Sharon Stein, " A colonial history of the higher education present: rethinking land-grant institutions through processes of accumulation and relations of conquest." Critical Studies in Education (2017): 212-228.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton UP, 2010.

Nancy Cantor, "Of Mutual Benefit: Democratic Engagement between Universities and Communities" Liberal Education 104.2 (2018).

Mark Jurdjevic, "Civic Humanism and the Rise of the Medici." Renaissance Quarterly 52.4 (Winter, 1999): 994-1020.

The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society, edited by Benjamin Kohl and Ronald G. Witt. U Penn Press, 1978.

Petrarch, De vita solitaria / On the solitary life, translated by Jacob Zeitlin. Hyperion Press, 1978.
Selected essays from Embedding Service Learning in European Higher Education: Developing a Culture of Civic Engagement, edited by Héctor Opazo, Lorraine McIlrath, Pilar Aramburuzabala. Taylor and Francis, 2019.

Selected essays from Service-Learning in Higher Education: Critical Issues and Directions, edited by Dan W. Butin. Palgrave, 2005.

Frank A. Fear and Lorilee Sandman, "Unpacking the Service Category: Reconceptualizing University Outreach for the 21st Century," Continuing Higher Education Review 59.3 (Fall, 1995): 110-22.

Adam S. Weinberg, "The University and the Hamlets: Revitalizing Low-Income Communities Through University Outreach and Community Visioning Exercises," American Behavioural Scientist 42.5 (1999): 800-813.

D. Bok. Beyond the ivory tower: Social responsibilities of the modern university. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

D.E. Giles, and J. Eyler, "The theoretical roots of service-learning in John Dewey: Toward a theory of service-learning." Michigan Journal of Service Learning 1 (1994): 77-85.

Trisha Greenhalgh, Claire Jackson, Sara Shaw, et al. "Achieving Research Impact Through Co‐creation in Community‐Based Health Services: Literature Review and Case Study" The Millbank Quarterly 94.2 (2016): 392-429.

Selected essays from Roots of Civic Identity: International Perspectives on Community Service and Activism in Youth, edited by Miranda Yates and James Youniss.

Charles Pattie, Patrick Sayed, and Paul Whiteley. "Citizenship and Civic Engagement: Attitudes and Behaviour in Britain." Political Studies 51.3 (2003): 443-468.

Theresa Man Ming Lee, "Rethinking the Personal and the Political: Feminist Activism and Civic Engagement" Hypatia 22 (2017): 163-179.

Research element

Healey & Jenkins (2009) propose that Research-led-teaching design should consider four discrete opportunities. This module has been designed to include the first three of these opportunities. Research-led learning, where the module syllabus is developed from current research in relevant fields, being based on contemporary and seminal, peer reviewed and other high quality research literature. As such, all knowledge for student engagement will be consciously and specifically chosen for its merits in reference to broader academic understanding.

  1. Research-tutored learning, where students engage actively in discussing high quality, contemporary and
    seminal research literature. In exploring this module's case studies, and critical discussion around
    methodology, students will engage with high quality contemporary and seminal academic literature.
  2. Research-orientated learning, where students are actively taught methodological understanding and skills for
    the independent creation of new knowledge. This module expressly provides students with the practical and
    conceptual understanding required to carry out well-considered and robustly-designed independent research.
  3. Research-based learning, where student use developing methodological skills to create original knowledge of
    their own. Though students will not use the methodological skills acquired for the independent creation of
    knowledge in this particular module, successful completion of it will enable them to do so in other master's level

Positive global transformations are widely recognised to require transdisciplinary approaches. This module has been
designed according to our signature problem-based, response-focused pedagogy, and as such will draw on
transdisciplinary knowledge, pedagogy and methodologies in the design and delivery of learning opportunities.
This module is expressly designed to provide students with skills and understanding which can be applied flexibly to a
range of disciplinary contexts, while authentic assessment methods will require students to demonstrate
transdisciplinary aptitude in tasks which are reflective of the practical application and critical evaluation of research
design and implementation. Transdisciplinary aptitude will be explicitly embedded in relevant marking rubrics, as
adapted from the standard university scale and descriptors


This module is designed with an inherently international approach in mind. As material is taught, students will be encouraged to consider each source from multiple perspectives and a wide variety of voices from both the centre and the margins, multilingual and multicultural approaches, and lenses from multiple cultures and time periods. While the material and approaches will be inherently internationalising, students may choose to focus on their local community, but will do so by being able to contextualise and nuance their approaches in light of various international perspectives.

Subject specific skills

As a transdisciplinary module, all skills associated with it are inherently transferable and are outlined below.

Transferable skills
  • Fundamental principles of community engagement models and approaches (ethical, epistemological, methodological).
  • Ability to conduct independent and collaborative transdisciplinary research.
  • Oral and written presentation skills.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Project management skills.
  • Professional networking and communication skills, including tactful, diplomatic and persuasive writing for multiple stakeholders.
  • Strategic advisory skills for policy change

Study time

Type Required
Seminars 10 sessions of 2 hours (10%)
Private study 85 hours (42%)
Assessment 95 hours (48%)
Total 200 hours
Private study description

Students will be expected to spend approx. 6 hours per week outside the classroom reading, researching, and preparing tasks for weekly sessions.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A
Weighting Study time
Policy and Governance Assessment 40% 40 hours

This assessment asks students to prepare a model policy brief or governance document for an organisation of their choosing (real or hypothetical). The purpose of the assessment is to familiarise students with professional governance documentation and to provide a venue for bridging academic and professional skills. The project will involve independent research and application of theories/frameworks seen in class. This assessment is designed to work alongside the Reflective Portfolio and Digital Engagement Model assessments.

Group Digital Engagement Model 30% 15 hours

This assessment will ask students to develop a model for digital engagement. Students will be required to produce a webpage where they will outline a particular model of community engagement (either one discussed in class or their own), and design an online campaign that is consonant with their model. They will be required to justify their creative choices with reference to literature in the field and case studies.

Additional hours are calculated on this assessment to facilitate website development.

Reflective Portfolio 30% 40 hours

Students will be required to identify an action-oriented goal for their own community engagement at the beginning of the module (this could range from volunteering in their local community to online tutoring, to anything that qualifies as an action-oriented community engagement goal).

Throughout the module, as we learn about new models, case studies, and approaches, students will be required to complete portfolio entries on their own blog. The final submission will be of their blog page itself, which should include 4 x 500-word entries documenting both their progress towards this goal, and how their conception of the journey towards such community engagement changes over the course of the year with reference to material studied in class.

Feedback on assessment

Written feedback will be provided for all assessments. Students will be given the opportunity for verbal feedback.


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of TIPA-LA9Z Postgraduate Taught Community, Engagement and Belonging (MASc)