Designation Policy for Community Service Learning Courses (Current)

Reference Number: S22-224
Senate Approval Date: Tuesday, May 03, 2022
Presidential Approval Date: 
Friday, May 6, 2022

Policy #:                       S22-224

Supersedes:                 S03-224

Senate Approval:          05/03/2022

Presidential Approval:   05/06/2022

Effective:                      Fall 2022

Last Review:                 Spring 2003

Next Review:                 Fall 2026


Academic Senate Policy #S03-224, Designation Policy for Community Service Learning Courses


This policy seeks to provide definitions and policy, in accordance with guidance from the Chancellor’s Office, on the process for designating various types of community service or community-engaged courses.

Key Words: community service learning , community engaged learning

Author/Source: Academic Policies Committee (APC) from the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement

Responsible Unit: Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE)










This revision provides definitions, removes procedural information, and

updates the policy to come into compliance with guidance from the Chancellor’s Office.






Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Definitions
  3. CSU and CEL in the Curriculum
  4. Course Designations and Attributes


Community Service Learning & Community Engaged Learning Policy


As part of the Chancellor’s Office (CO) 2018-19 California’s Call to Service Initiative, the CO identified an accountability goal to strengthen system-wide data collection infrastructure around community engaged courses (as defined by the Chancellor's Office Center for Community Engagement). The purpose is to improve data collection to better support faculty and understand student learning, faculty efforts, and community impact. All campuses must implement two system-wide course attributes (community service learning and community engaged learning) in the course management system to effectively identify and track these types of courses. Campuses are also required to distinguish service learning, as a distinct pedagogy, from community-engaged learning, which can include a variety of community-based learning experiences. A working group consisting of representatives from the Chancellor’s Office, CSU campuses, and the CSU Academic Senate developed the tools and resources needed for this initiative. The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) is overseeing this effort for San Francisco State University, including the dissemination, tracking, assessment, and reporting of the survey and survey data.

Community service learning (CSL) and community engaged learning (CEL) include a range of high-impact pedagogical practices that enhance students’ learning and foster civic understanding through active course-based learning that involves meaningful collaboration with community partners. The academic study may be in any discipline or combination of fields. Student learning outcomes benefit the common good, whether through direct service to communities in need or the organizations that serve them or through indirect service projects that contribute to community capacity building more broadly. CSL and CEL enhance academic learning by allowing students to make connections between their classroom education and its application to the field. These high-impact learning experiences help students to clarify their career goals and acquire work-related skills, develop a heightened sense of civic responsibility and awareness of moral and ethical issues, and provide them with a wide variety of work options with a goal of being value-added for the community they serve. Working from a common understanding will further the university’s identity as an “engaged institution,” contribute to quality transparent learning experiences for students, and offer opportunity for faculty dialogue and scholarship within and across disciplines.


  1. The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) provides opportunities for civic engagement and leadership development at San Francisco State University for students, faculty, staff, and community members. By providing training and resources through several initiatives, ICCE supports faculty and students who participate in high-impact pedagogical practices and active course-based learning in partnership with a range of community organizations. These practices often involve innovation in teaching and learning. The CSU Chancellor’s Office Community Engaged Learning Attribute Initiative, implemented two related course attributes: (i) community service learning (CSL) and (ii) community engaged learning (CEL).
  2. Community Service Learning (CSL) is a distinct pedagogy that intentionally and explicitly integrates course learning, civic learning, community learning activities with community partnerships. It combines academic study in any discipline with community service so that each is enhanced by the other. Through a process of structured reflection, the service experience is integrated with the lessons of the classroom to enrich learning outcomes. Students enrolled in a course offering a community service learning opportunity balance their time between classroom instruction, service in the community, and reflection upon their service experience. The service experience may include direct service to people in need, applied research, community outreach and education, or policy analysis and advocacy. Student learning outcomes relate directly to the service experience and their reflections on that experience. More specifically, CSL Courses:
  • Involve students in service activities or projects that are responsive to community needs. Students who choose the CSL option must complete no less than 20 hours per academic term of direct academically relevant community service.
  • Include academic topics that directly address questions related to the activities of the students.
  • Require student reflection on the interrelationships between course content, concepts, and objectives and community-based learning activities.
  1. Community Engaged Learning (CEL) refers to courses in any discipline that have some type of community engaged assignment built around reciprocal partnerships to benefit the common good and enhance student learning. Collaborative project goals and priorities are driven by community partners and negotiated with faculty and students involved in the CEL opportunity. Collaborative projects may focus on improving community resources or capacities, participatory or action research projects, or implementing a range of other activities to advance community-identified goals and strategies.
  2. For additional definitions and the CSU-CEL Taxonomy, see Appendix A to this document.

III.CSL and CEL in the Curriculum

Students enroll in CSL and CEL courses by following the regular methods described in the Class Schedule. CSL and CEL courses may be offered in any discipline, degree program, and by any department or program on campus. Undergraduate and graduate courses are eligible to receive CSL/CEL designations or attributes.

CSL and CEL are identified as a high-impact educational practice (HIP) by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Faculty and staff members are integral to service-learning by serving as Community Service Learning (CSL) course instructors, departmental program coordinators, and advocates to students. In addition, faculty and staff members play vital roles in engaging students in critical reflection, interacting with community partners, and conducting community- based research. CSL courses promote student success and retention, while improving quality of learning in traditionally underserved student populations, including students of color, the economically disadvantaged, first-generation college students, and students with different learning styles. In addition, research shows that CSL and CEL have beneficial impacts for faculty, students, and organizations involved in the collaborative, experiential learning. Impacts for faculty include increased satisfaction with quality of student learning, increased commitment to research, more lively class discussions and increased student participation, increased student retention of course material, increased student awareness of community and "real world" issues, increased opportunities for research and publication, and increased faculty awareness of community issues. Impacts for students include improved learning outcomes, personal growth and professional development, increased pro-social activities, enhanced relationships with the university, and improved graduation rates.

Academic programs are encouraged to include assessment measures specific to CSL and CEL courses in the program review process, including documenting any evidence of enhanced student success, whether related to learning outcomes, personal efficacy, retention/graduation, or other program goals. When assessing CSL and CEL courses, it is important to measure along at least three dimensions: (1) academic learning, (2) civic learning, (3) community partner goals. Programs are encourage to contact ICCE for support and additional resources related to assessing CSL and CEL courses, including how they contribute to program goals.

  1. Course Designations and Attributes

Courses may be designated as CSL or CEL in SF State’s Curriculum Inventory Management (CIM) system. In addition, when multiple sections of a course are taught, each section can receive a different attribution, including whether the CSL or CEL activities are Required (R), Extra Credit (EC) or Optional (O) for students enrolled in the course, where:

  • R (required): all students enrolled in the course must participate in CSL activities and complete related assignments. CSL is embedded into course curriculum.
  • EC (extra credit): enrolled students have the option to participate in some or all CSL activities and assignments and will be awarded extra credit for those activities and assignments.
  • O (optional): enrolled students can elect to participate in CSL activities and complete related assignments OR participate in traditional “classroom” activities and complete related assignments.

The CSU Chancellor’s Office provides a CEL Tool designed for CSU faculty to identify where a course falls along the spectrum of CEL. The CEL Tool asks faculty a series of questions based on the CSU-CEL Taxonomy and results in the assigning of an attribute. The CEL Tool is meant to allow the CSU to capture meaningful data across the system to better support faculty and work towards appropriate recognition for this work. It also offers insight into curriculum preparation and design that take into consideration essential elements along the community- engaged learning spectrum that help shape and improve student

learning. Completing the CELT provides faculty with an opportunity to reflect on where they are and ways they can further improve and/or enhance their community-based teaching and strengthen their community partnerships.

Contact the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement for more detailed procedures about course designations and attributes.

Signed Memo: