Community Engaged Learning Module

This resource helps prepare students for community engaged learning experiences. As representatives of PSU, it is important that students meet the expectations of partnering organizations and agencies.

Community engaged learning experiences have the potential to advance personal and professional goals in profound ways. This training lays the foundation for developing PSU’s four Habits of Mind* that cultivate the NACE (National Association for Colleges and Employers)** Competencies (as illustrated in the image below).

Our community is eager to support you on your unique journey as you learn and grow.


Thank you for engaging in this online experience, which was created by the Office of Community Impact (OCI). The OCI fosters transformative learning experiences for Plymouth State University (PSU) students to engage in active citizenship, explore their sense of purpose, and grow into conscious leaders who cultivate love and connection throughout our local and global communities.

These Modules are required on the Community Impact Pathway, which students can complete to receive recognition for their co-curricular and curricular community engaged learning experiences. To learn more about the Community Impact Pathway, please contact Jessica Dutille at

How to Complete the Module

Please complete each section of this module, which includes viewing video clips, reading material, and a culminating reflection. After you have completed the training and submitted your reflective responses, you will then receive confirmation of the completion of this program. You can expect this confirmation within 3-4 business days. 

It’s time to bring the best of who you are and let your light shine! 

Please begin with Section 1. 

*Plymouth State University. General Education Requirements

**National Association for Colleges and Employers. (2019). Career Readiness Defined. Retrieved from…


Purposeful Communication is a habit of mind characterized by the construction of meaning through interactions with texts and people and the creation of new messages.*

Communication impacts many aspects of our lives and is a foundation to advancing social change through developing strong relationships and sharing impactful messages. In this section we explore the habit of mind of Purposeful Communication in cultivating the competencies of Oral/Written Communication and Digital Technology.

communication sign



Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; is able to express ideas to others; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.**



Digital Technology Sign




Leverage existing digital technologies ethically and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, and accomplish goals. The individual demonstrates effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies.**



All Forms of Communication Should Be:

  • Clear
  • Sincere
  • Authentic
  • Honest
  • Continuous

Be sure to keep all organizational information confidential and create healthy boundaries with co-workers and clients.  

Please watch the following video by Clint Smith: The Danger of Silence.

Non-verbal Communication

Your attitude towards your work and those around you is directly linked to your performance and success. You can feel the energy of a person when they walk into a room, long before they ever open their mouth. Think of a time when someone’s attitude negatively impacted you. What did that feel like? What did it do to your attitude? Understanding how your presence contributes to either a positive space, or a negative space helps you to be more self-aware. It also helps you create strong positive relationships and gain meaning in your role.

There are many ways that you communicate without speaking. You send all kinds of messages through your body language and the ways in which you move through the world. 

It is expected that you dress professionally when on site. How can your appearance communicate, “I respect myself, and I respect you,” without infringing on self expression? What messages does your non-verbal communication send?  

Social Media

Please remember that using personal social media accounts is not usually an effective or appropriate way to communicate with your site supervisor, fellow staff members, or clients. For example, when working with youth at an after school program or vulnerable populations at a shelter, communicating with clients via social media would be unprofessional and unethical. Always make sure to check with your site supervisor about their social media and electronic communication policies.


What is empathy? How do we demonstrate compassion to those around us? A big part of effective communication is actively listening. How does listening foster empathy for others? Please consider this as you view the following short video by Brene Brown.


Gaining closure is really important for you, your site supervisor, fellow staff members, and clients. At the end of any experience you have, make sure to take time to express your gratitude and to say, “good-bye” or “see you later.” No doubt you will always remember your experience, and it may even lead to future opportunities. Keep in touch with the colleagues and friends that you made.

Please continue on to Section 2. 


Problem Solving is a habit of mind that involves an iterative process of identifying, explaining, and exploring problems, describing challenges, envisioning possible solutions and their implication, and make decision about how to proceed based on all of these considerations. Problem solving encompasses a broad array of activities and approaches.*

In this section we explore the habit of mind of Problem Solving in cultivating the competencies of Critical Thinking and  Teamwork/Collaboration.

Critical Thinking sign



Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.**





Teamwork Sign

Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and manage conflict.**




Goal Setting

Goal setting is important in working towards your dreams, in order to do so you need to have an understanding of who you are and where you fit in the world. Reflecting on your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and priorities helps you to better understand where you hope to be in the future. Having goals, both big a small, helps to create a road map. Your goals may evolve and change, and that is okay as you experience the journey.

The first step in being successful in your experience is having a deeper understanding of yourself.

  • What are your strengths, interests, passions?
  • What are your hopes, dreams, and goals for your experience?
  • What do you want to change or improve?
  • What are some of the goals and priorities for your partnering organization?
  • What kinds of things could you learn from your off campus mentors?
Digging Comic
Driving on a twisty road






It is very important that you adhere to all guidelines and employee expectations of your community partner site. If you are not clear on expectations, please ask. Expectations are usually articulated in a volunteer or employee handbook. If you are not given such a document, ask your site supervisor, so that you can be clear on organizational policies and requirements.

All decisions that you make should represent a high ethical standard with consideration of everyone involved. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your site supervisor, faculty member, or staff advisor to gain help in processing difficult situations or decisions.

Safety on Site

Remember that standing in your truth and giving your best requires you to take care of yourself first. It also requires that you always feel safe on site. Processing your concerns with your site supervisor is important for you and for your clients. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out and discuss challenges. In fact, there are organizational protocols that provide a framework for how to navigate issues. This is why it is critically important for you to discuss such situations with your site supervisor in efforts to work collaboratively in working out any concerns. 

Reciprocal Partnerships

Reciprocity: rec·i·proc·i·ty (noun) Defined as: the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.

Building mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships is what high impact community engaged learning is all about. This means that projects are identified and driven by the community you are working in. Our partners are vital in creating a rich learning experience for you, and there is no doubt that you will learn a lot about your skill sets, future goals, and passions, but challenge yourself to give your best in efforts to ensure our commitment to creating reciprocal relationships.

It’s okay to recognize that that your experience may not be your life’s work, but it is important to follow through on your commitments. Participating in community engaged learning with our partners allows you the opportunity to discover what you are interested in and also what you are not interested in. Having open communication with your site supervisor can help to create a positive environment where you both benefit.


Taking time to reflect on your work and experiences in the community is integral to engaged learning. It helps to reinforce lessons you’ve learned in the classroom and gives you the opportunity to think critically. As a result, your experiences will be more meaningful and contribute to your personal growth.

There are 4 critical components identified in Reflection: The 4 C’s of Critical Reflection

Adapted from Eyler, Giles and Schmiede (1996) A Practitioner’s Guide to Reflection in Service-Learning: Student Voices and Reflections. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP.

  • Continuous– ongoing process throughout the duration of the project
  • Connected– linked to coursework and academic outcomes
  • Challenging– rigorous academic standards, which develop critical thinking skills and reinforce student competencies
  • Contextual– meaningful for students and supports personal development

Please continue on to Section 3.


Self-Regulated Learning is a habit of mind that encompasses the desire to learn, the ability to set personal goals for learning, and the capacity to engage in a self-monitored learning process.*

Career Management Sign



Identify and articulate one’s skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, and identify areas necessary for professional growth. The individual is able to navigate and explore job options, understands and can take the steps necessary to pursue opportunities, and understands how to self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.**







Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.**


How do you represent yourself?

It will be important that you approach your experience with an open mind and a grateful heart. Remember, you certainly cannot control all the circumstances that you will experience, but you can control the way in which you approach them. Sometimes this means that you will need to reframe your perspective and widen your focus. 

Be mindful of who you represent:

  • Yourself
  • PSU (your institution)
  • Your partner organization

It is important to recognize that we all have a “personal brand.” This is an active choice of how we choose to represent and share our values, strengths, and dreams with other people. Understanding yourself, and your goals, motivators, strengths etc., can help you understand what you want to convey to others. Your personal brand can be seen when you first meet people, how you engage in social media, what you convey in a cover letter/resume, and many other direct and indirect actions. While sometimes challenging, it is important to stay mindful of how we interact with others and the word around us because we all wear many hats whether that may be “student” or “volunteer” or “employee” or “community member.”

Personal Icerberg


In order to gain placement at your community partner site you might be expected to complete additional training, or to complete a criminal background check. This is all part of your professional development. Once you have gained placement, it is important to remember that even though you might not be getting paid for your work, volunteers are still very much depended on. Please understand that you are making a commitment, so be sure to only commit to what you are able to deliver on and establish clear boundaries.

Certainly life happens and things will come up. You might feel under the weather, or you may have a family issue to deal with. In such a situation, you should reach out to your site supervisor to stay connected and communicate anything that would prevent you from following through on your commitment. Time management plays a big part in ensuring your dependability. Certainly plan ahead and map out your time.

When you are on site, please be completely present; this is an opportunity to show up and give your best. Technology is ever present in our lives these days, but please check in with your site supervisor about the culture and policies relative to personal technology usage.


Taking care of and being aware of your emotional, mental, and physical health is very important during your time in college. With many different commitments to classes, jobs, friends, clubs, it often feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done. Keeping a pulse on your emotional, mental, and physical health can help you be more productive alleviate stressors. Some levels of stress and anxiety are normal and a part of every day life, stress can even be helpful in the right amounts. Read this article to learn more how to manage stress and anxiety in college. 

That being said, sometimes stress and anxiety can be overwhelming and it is okay to ask for help. Please visit PSU’s Counseling Center’s website to learn more about your resources. 

Take this quiz created by the Greater Good Science Center, run by UC Berkeley to gain a sense of how you cope with stress and anxiety. However, this is not a diagnostic test! If you have concerns, please contact your doctor or schedule an appointment with the PSU Counseling Center. 

Please watch the following video by Bel Pesce: 5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams.

Please continue on to Section 4.


Integrated Perspective is a habit of mind characterized by the recognition that individual beliefs, ideas, and values are influenced by personal experience as well as multiple contextual factors—cultural, historical political, etc.*

Global Knowledge



Value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates, openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.**



Leadership Sign



Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage their emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.**



High impact community engaged learning immerses students in experiential opportunities off campus with partnering organizations and businesses. In this way students apply what they are learning in the classroom in practical settings that develop professional skill sets while positively impacting the community. Community engaged learning covers a broad range of experiences, including volunteering, service-learning, internships, community service work study, service trips, co-ops and more!


All too often fear of differences cause the illusion of separateness. It is important that you honor all human experience while working for your community partner, whether you are working as an intern, employee, or volunteer. There is inherent value in every human being, and diversity strengthens the fabric of a community. It is important to move through personal opinions and biases and open your mind to different ways of thinking and experiencing life. 

It is true that you have something important to bring to the table, to teach, and to contribute. However, you also have something equally as important to receive and to learn. We are all connected in ways that are sometimes easy to overlook. What you do matters! It matters to your family, to your community, and to the world. It matters because our lives are so interconnected and we are not as separate as we may seem.

Developing collaborative and positive partnerships is critical in achieving meaningful engagement experiences. Regardless if you are working in your local community or in another country, it is all about standing in solidarity and recognizing that together we are stronger.


You are infinitely valuable. You have a uniquely beautiful human experience that only you can contribute to the world. Self-Awareness is understanding your own character, feelings, and desires. Participating in community engaged learning allows you to understand what motivates  you and how to contribute your passion in a way that positively impacts you and all those around you. 

Mindfulness and Living with Intention

To be an intentional leader means that you consider how your decisions impact others. Recognize people as complex and whole beings, and build strong relationships grounded in trust. This requires listening, seeking feedback, and growing as a result. What does it mean to live a life of intention and to be a mindful leader who leads from the heart?

You can be a leader, regardless of titles, every person has the ability to inspire change and positively affect others. 

Happiness and Gratitude

Consider the fact that every job is important. Even difficult tasks provide us with a sense of fulfillment once they are completed. How can you find fulfillment in your career? How can you contribute your unique interests, experiences, and skills? What makes your heart sing?

Watch the video below where Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist, shares how happiness can be the key to success, then answer the journal prompt at the end of the module.

Active Citizenship

All the programs of the Office of Community Impact are aligned with the Active Citizenship Continuum, which was developed by Break Away. Becoming an active citizen is a transformative journey that requires continuous commitment to self-awareness, education, critical thinking, service, and reflection. Being an active citizen means that you are striving to understand and address the root causes of community identified needs and ultimately making community a priority in your life. It is not about changing the world all at once (which can be really overwhelming to think about), but rather, it is about having the courage to ask the question why and contribute what you can in ways that have a positive impact on your community.

Active Citizenship Continuum


Please continue on to complete your reflection.