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Combining Community-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning: A Qualitative Systemic Analysis of the Experiences and Perceptions of Students and Community Partners

João Alberto Arantes do Amaral


This article presents findings regarding a community-based learning experience that took place from 2014 to 2017, involving 379 undergraduate students from the Federal University of Sao Paolo. The students developed 82 projects on behalf of 20 community partners (NGOs, public institutions, hospitals, libraries and individual families). The research objective is to reveal the systemic impacts of this experience. The experiment followed an action research approach. Quantitative and qualitative data was gathered by means of questionnaires, focus group notes, community partners’ project evaluations, project documents and project blogs. The data was analyzed following a convergent parallel mixed method approach. The main findings were: 1) Working in real-life projects on behalf of a network of community partners that help people in need motivates the students to do their best to accomplish the projects; however, real-life projects may also bring difficulties that could negatively impact students’ motivation; 2) The need to solve real-life problems encourages students to search for learning opportunities, which encourages self-learning, learning with peers and learning with community partners; 3) The academic projects bring many benefits (material, educational, research opportunities, motivational) to the participants, which foster the continuity of the partnership.


community-based learning; project-based learning; project management; action research; systemic analysis

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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
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