Community-Based Learning

Connecting Research and Dialogue Skills with Community Needs

img_TCI_making-connections_1320The Program on Intergroup Relations, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Detroit Initiative in Psychology have received Transforming Learning for a Third Century funding to test an integrated set of course and internship experiences that allow U-M student’s to use research and dialogue skills in community-based internships with partner organizations in Washtenaw and Wayne counties.


The Community-Based Learning: Connecting Research and Dialogue Skills with Community Needs project builds on U-M’s unique strengths in undergraduate research, community-based learning and intergroup dialogue to enable students to more effectively engage with community partners and apply their skills and knowledge to address community-defined needs. Students involved with the project’s three units come from all over campus. The majority of students are enrolled in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, but participants also come from engineering, education, business and nursing. Research and dialogue facilitation skills are relevant across these schools and their majors. Graduate students, most often from professional schools, are engaged as mentors and leaders of community projects and will fill similar roles in the proposed project.

The three collaborating units have already been offering a series of courses that provide exposure to dialogue practice, community involvement and research. Community engagement research internship experiences also currently exist in two of the three collaborating units. Community-based dialogue facilitation internships are available through the Program on Intergroup Relations in K-12 schools and community-based organizations in the Detroit Metropolitan area. The Detroit Initiative courses offer project-based internships with youth serving neighborhood organizations in Detroit and Hamtramck. UROP’s Community Based Research Fellowships place student in non-profit organizations around the Metro Detroit Area to fulfill research needs in communities around issues such as economic and community development, neighborhood safety, community food systems, education and sustainable resources.

Project Goals

In the Winter 2013 term, the collaborating units reviewed and began revising course offerings to assure they addressed basic community-based research skills, dialogue facilitation skills, and a common set of competencies (assessment of community needs and goals, problem-solving, action research, group facilitation) that will enable students to work effectively with community groups. A Community Engagement Steering Committee including Detroit community partners is being createdto collaborate on program, curriculum and partnership development. New curricular content, presentations by community partners, and the integration of dialogue training into UROP’s Community Bases Research Fellowship Program were piloted during Summer 2013.

Community Engagement Internship Courses

In Fall 2013, based on the pilot experience and Steering Committee recommendations, the project is developing two sets of Community Engagement Internship Courses and offer them to up to 50 students from the participating programs during Winter 2014.

  1. Community-based research internships will focus on developing skills in survey research, participatory action research, focus group facilitation, interviewing skills, as well as training in qualitative and quantitative analytic methods.
  2. Dialogue facilitation internships will focus on developing skills for leading short-term workshops (requiring fewer hours of training) and full-fledged community dialogues (requiring more training).

A combined research/facilitation internship course for students interested in both sets of skills may also be offered. Both sets of internship courses will ask students to integrate across previous courses and the internships using reflective pedagogy based in private and public reflection papers, in-class dialogue, as well as individual and group portfolios.

Field Trips

Students will participate in field trips to understand how inequality and economic and social policies affect various communities. Why are there more toys in better condition available to children with warmer clothing in the Head Start in Ypsilanti than in Southwest Detroit? The new project will expose students to both kinds of communities, more limited in one or the other, so that they move from near, often familiar and comfortable sites, to less familiar sites that take them beyond their “comfort zones.” Students who work in a single placement will have the opportunity to experience additional sites and observe resource disparities across communities. This field experience is a crucial catalyst for reflection and integration of their course content and community internships.

Capstone Seminar

In the Winter Term 2014, the project will design a Community Engagement Capstone Seminar, to be offered in a possible Transformation phase of the effort. The seminar will offer advanced students opportunities to integrate and reflect across multiple course and community experiences. It will focus on connecting their research and dialogue facilitation skills and enabling them to work effectively as community and civic leaders and collaborators with others different from themselves.

The collaborating units on the Community-Based Learning: Connecting Research and Dialogue Skills with Community Needs project will continually assess the impact of their programs. Pre- and post-assessments, focus groups, and evaluations by community partners will be used specifically to review and assess the impact of the project. Results will be disseminated in both academic journals and community venues.

Clusters of Skills and Knowledge (PDF, 123kb)


The Third Century Initiative Program Overview
The Program on Intergroup Relations
Detroit Initiative
UROP:  Community Based Research Program

Project Team:

Sandra R. Gregerman, Director, Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program
Patricia Y. Gurin, Professor of Psychology, Research Director, Program on Intergroup Relations
Lorraine M. Gutierrez, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Social Work, Detroit Initiative Director
Susan B. King, Outreach Specialist, Program on Intergroup Relations
Kelly E. Maxwell, Co-Director, Program on Intergroup Relations
Jenna Steiner, Program Manager, Community-Based Research Program, UROP