SHOWCASE: Embedding Experiential or Community-Engaged Learning Projects into Your Courses (90 mins)


  • Wai Ling Fong
  • Leila Austin
  • Susan Hirsch
  • Agnieszka Paczynska
  • Siddhartha Sikdar
  • Shannyn Snyder
  • Debra Stroiney
  • Patty Mathison



As educators, we strive to create opportunities for students to learn deeply and meaningfully. One way to do this is to engage students with experiential (defined here as applied professional practice) or community-engaged (defined here as assignments that involve a community partner) projects. This session features a multidisciplinary panel of speakers who will discuss how to design and implement such projects into courses from across disciplines. Panelists will share specific project assignment examples and share their strategies for engaging and working with community partners, as well as preparing students to participate in these types of experiences. Whether you are teaching at the graduate or undergraduate level, in-person or online teaching, this session would showcase on-going projects at Mason, as well as ideas and resources on how you can create and implement experiential engagement learning projects in your classroom. To begin the session, participants will be asked to share their definition of "experiential" and "community-engaged" activities on a Jamboard. Answers are made public for all attendees. The convener will next introduce the speakers and the lightning talk format. Each speaker will have 6 to 10 mins (max) of lighting talk. During the lightning talk, participants are encouraged to post their questions in the chatroom. The convener will open a 5 min Q&A to address these questions after each talk. Participants will leave with concrete activity and strategy ideas for incorporating experiential or community-engaged learning projects into their courses and also receive a list of compiled resources and speakers' contact at the end of the session.

Conveners: Wai Ling Fong, Larisa Olesova

Panelist Speakers:
Leila Austin (College of Visual and Performing Arts) will share tips and experiential activities to engage students in the global environmental challenge of climate change.
Susan Hirsch (Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution) and Agnieszka Paczynska (Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution) will share best practices and specific “how-to” tips of developing a variety of role plays and simulations (e.g., Liberia Conflict Mapping, Loudoun County School Board Meeting) for both in-person and online instruction models, including how to adapt experiential exercises developed for an in-person format into a virtual setting. They will share how to write short, simple role plays that allow students to explore complex social dynamics in relatively compressed time frames (often no more than 30 minutes); as well role plays and simulations that require students to do significant research in preparing their roles. With respect to community-engaged learning into courses, we will share best practices for developing and sustaining partnerships. In the area of student engagement in community-based restorative justice, several examples of involving students in designing and delivering workshops (awareness raising), trainings (restorative practices), and holding Virtual Restorative Circles in response to opportunities to work with community partners. Surmounting some of the difficulties of responding to urgent partner requests while also meeting pedagogical goals will be discussed. The examples offered will include courses taught in domestic, international, and virtual settings.

Siddhartha Sikdar (Volgenau School of Engineering) will share his team's experience in involving graduate students in community-engaged design projects as part of a new two course sequence PROV 801 and 802 (Community-engaged Interdisciplinary Methods I and II) created as part of a NSF-funded National Research Traineeship (NRT) program. Students utilized design thinking strategies, customer discovery interviews with stakeholders, and a design canvas, to break down a complex societal problem into a specific research question; and developed a NIH-style research proposal. The students then participated in peer review of the proposals and ran a mock peer review panel. Finally, they presented their refined proposals to an audience of community stakeholders, practitioners and industry partners. I will discuss how some of these strategies can be adapted in courses that tackle interdisciplinary topics.

Shannyn Snyder (College of Health and Human Services) will share strategies and tips from her years of experience designing and teaching community-based learning courses and how she has modified and adjusted in response to the limitations of COVID-19.

Debra Stroiney (College of Education and Human Development) will share the experiential/client-based project implemented in her KINE 350 course that requires students to take an assigned client through a typical consultation and exercise assessment, as well as write an exercise prescription to improve health and fitness. The student then meets with the client to teach them the exercises and gain feedback on the prescription they created. Check-ins and feedback on the project are given throughout the semester to keep the student on track. She will discuss strategies for designing and supporting a client-based project across disciplines and how this type of project can also be used as preparation for internships.

Author Biographies

Susan Hirsch

***TEA-High Impact 2021 Winner***

Shannyn Snyder

***ATEA 2018 Winner***





2021 TUESDAY 10:00am-11:30am