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Unit information: Community Engagement: Theory into Practice in 2020/21

Unit name Community Engagement: Theory into Practice
Unit code ENGL10059
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Mrs. Thomas-Hughes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Community Engagement: Theory into Practice is the second in a series of cumulative units which aim to prepare and support students in the development, execution and critical evaluation of individual community-engaged projects as part of their undergraduate studies on the English Literature and Community Engagement BA.

The unit aims to introduce students to a variety of ways in which ‘community’ and ‘engagement’ can be understood as concepts. Students will be introduced to a range of theoretical perspectives from disciplines including education and sociology which will inform their understandings of community engagement as a concept and practice.

Community engagement is a practice-led discipline and students are expected, as a core part of this unit, to commit at least 30 hours to the development and execution of their own community engaged project. This will include the development of a project plan. Practice will be evidenced through students’ reflective journals, an assessed presentation, and the submission of project plans.

The unit will have a substantial focus on how community engagement theory can inform community engagement practise. Focus will include topics such as participation and power, representation and cultural dominance, and the ethics of community engagement.

The unit will explore how experiential knowledge (students' own knowledge and that of their community partners and members) can be engaged to support community-engaged projects.


  • to enable students to design and begin implementing a community-engaged project (such as a reading group). Projects are not limited in context (e.g. a workplace, local charity, school, children’s centre, older people’s home, prison, library or museum) but will pertain in focus to literary forms (from novels, short-stories, poems and biography to film, theatre, graphic text and oral-culture).
  • to enable students to engage critically with theoretical framings of ‘community’ and ‘engagement’ and to consider how they relate to the practise of developing and running a community-engaged project.
  • to develop students’ skills in organising, planning and managing a community engaged project, including recruiting and retaining project participants/group members, facilitating informal learning spaces, choosing appropriate materials, managing conflict, assessing risk.
  • to develop students’ understanding and use of reflection as a method for developing and evaluating community-engaged projects.

Students are expected to keep a reflective journal as part of this unit. They will be supported in journaling through the setting of regular reflective tasks. The unit includes a midway submission point where students will have the opportunity to submit and receive feedback on a 500-1000-word sample from their journal.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of how ‘community’ and ‘community engagement’ can be understood theoretically and use this to inform the development of their community-engaged projects.
  2. Use experiential reflection to consider how and why the study of English Literature might be used to underpin a community-engaged project.
  3. Design a community-engaged project (with a suitable partner as appropriate) including assessing risk and ethical implications.
  4. Critically assess their community-engaged project design, reflexively evaluating their methodology approach.
  5. Demonstrate ability to use reflective writing to inform the development of a community engaged project. 

Teaching details

This unit is normally taught through a series of 3-hour seminars delivered across the academic year. Seminars utilise a range of teaching methods including lectures, practical-activities and small group dicussion. Seminars are supported by a range of asynchronous learning activities. As part of this unit students have access to a one-to-one mentor who will support and guide thier development of a communtiy engaged project. Students also typically have access to two Saturday writing re-treats which provide a guided space for developing their academic writing skills.

Assessment Details

1 x presentation and peer Q & A on CE project plan/activity. To include hard-copy submission of CE project-plan of up to 2500 word [ILOs: 1-5] 100%

Reading and References

Bolton, Gillie. Reflective practice: Writing and professional development. Sage publications, 2010.

Clark, Christina, and Kate Rumbold. "Reading for Pleasure: A Research Overview." National Literacy Trust (2006).

Hooks, Bell, 1952. Teaching Community: a Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge, (2003).

Johnson, Fran & Helen Thomas-Hughes. 2020. Community Engagement Handbook, Theory into Practice: BILT, University of Bristol.