Interested in getting real-world, hands-on experience that will allow you to further your education and personal capacities? Want to be a leader of the future in your chosen field and profession? The guiding principle in Engaged Learning is learning from, with, and about each other. Through participating in an EL initiative, you get real-world expertise and knowledge and implement your theoretical understanding in a practical setting. You gain knowledge and skills to help you contribute to society and find solutions to local and global problems.

What is Engaged Learning?

Engaged Learning—as defined by the creators of this toolkit—is a pedagogical approach that enables students to derive learning from meaningful community engagement whilst working on real world problems. Engaged Learning may include either curriculum-based or optional, one-off initiatives, which may, or may not, be credit bearing.

Engaged learning projects around Europe include working with asylum seekers, urban gardening, community law clinic (Exeter, UK), a student-run free urban space with various sub-projects (Magdeburg, Germany)—and many others!

Engaged Learning initiatives vary in structure and approach, sit within a diverse range of university disciplines, and tackle an array of societal challenges.

What’s in it for you?

  • learning valuable practical skills
  • developing, evaluating and researching real life activities
  • developing working skills such as team working; the ability to be flexible, resilient, and responsive as projects evolve in unexpected ways; project management; leadership and enterprise; and independent learning
  • learning to interact with different people from different communities and countries
  • finding internships or topics for thesis
  • gaining credits
  • collaborating first-hand with citizens and teamwork based on real-life situations
  • applying theory learned in the classroom to the complexity of a real environment
  • helping a partner organisation or community address their specific needs
  • benefiting from the experiential or lived knowledge of communities and organisations
  • gaining increased sensitivity and capacity to manage diversity

For some students involved in EL initiatives, the learning experience has completely changed the way they see their future profession as well as their general approach to working collaboratively.

Experiences: take my word

On the following video, University of Exeter students Charlotte Smith and Octavia Hamilton share their experiences and insights of Engaged Learning. The video is presented by Dr Lindsey Anderson, Regional Engagement Manager of the University of Exeter and the project manager of the CaST project.

Student presentations

At the final conference of the CaST project in Malaga in April 2022, a number of students who had participated in Engaged Learning initiatives presented their insights and experiences.

Santeri Harinko, University of Turku – Housing Estates in the 2020s

Hanna Sheen, University of Exeter – Exeter’s Community Law Clinics

Charlotte Smith, University of Exeter – Kinder Exeter

Engaged Learning in Parma – Student Voices | University of Parma

The University of Parma redesigned the International Politics course of the Master in European and International Relations, to incorporate an Engaged Learning element aimed to increase connections between university students and local stakeholders working on international issues, and to increase the knowledge acquired by students to a) inform the public about international political dynamics, and…

Main image: Kinder Exeter festival. Photo by Kristian Garside.