Students gather around an instructional leader on a beach

The positive learning potentials of community-connected project-based learning (CCPBL) require highly collaborative leadership by those in instructional roles, reflective processes for students that allow for meaning-making and connections to other learning experiences and knowledge of social structures, and the support of students’ development of civic competencies and leadership skills. While all project-based learning involves many of these attributes, CCPBL requires additional support for community partnership relationships and logistics, and awareness of best practices for working with diverse others.

We view this Project Assistant (PA) Training Program as a strategy for CCPBL expansion and success. The availability of trained and supported PAs will enable more faculty to implement CCPBL effectively and sustainably. PAs can help provide instructional and logistical support for the students executing projects developed by faculty and community partners. 

The training program for student project assistants to support faculty in leading CCPBL courses takes place prior to the start of the courses’ semester (J-Term for Spring, Summer for Fall). Faculty accepted to participate in the PA program commit to 1) one cohort meeting with CCE staff and PAs in advance of the semester, 2) share a draft syllabus with CCE staff a month before the semester begins and 3) two training meetings with your PA prior to the start of the course.  Timing and frequency of meetings with your PA during term will be mutually determined at the beginning of the term (usually once per week). 

Faculty who are interested in having PA support for their community-connected course in Spring 2022 should return to this page mid-Fall 2021 to complete an application form.

Program Details


PAs have six hours/week to support a course (assuming standard spring term).

Each course will have a customized PA job description that the faculty member will propose during the application process requesting a PA and then refine through conversations with their PA.


Examples of the type of work and facilitation a PA could lead include:

  • Provide an introductory overview of the principles of PBL to course participants
  • Facilitate team selection and team building with project groups
  • Lead project group discussions about power dynamics
  • Introduce and maintain project management tools
  • Manage community partner communication tools with project groups
  • Manage logistics of transportation if the project site requires
  • Implement proper risk management procedures needed for community partnership work (in consultation with CCE)
  • Contribute feedback on student work (written reflections, peer- and self-assessments, community partner deliverables, final presentation)

TA training program modules will include:

  • Goals & Principles of Community-Connected PBL
  • Relationship Building
  • Creating Reflective Spaces
  • Project Management
  • Team Development
  • Community Partnership Best Practices
  • Power & Inequalities

Here are some examples of some of the learning objectives, competencies and themes our training modules will cover:

  • Developing shared expectations
  • Implementing community partnership best practices
  • What is reciprocity and what does it look like in practice?
  • Developing shared understanding of commitments between and among students and community partners
  • Contributing to clear, reliable communication
  • Bringing awareness of power dynamics across different groups
  • Discussing key dispositions of community-engaged learners:  open-mindedness, cultural humility , appreciation of community cultural wealth, curiosity, empathy, commitment
  • Supporting team development within student and community groups
  • Identifying goals, challenges, and strategies for collaborative work
  • Holding the question: “What is ‘adequate understanding’ of the communities with which one is working”?
  • Assigning group roles based on individual strengths and learning goals
  • Addressing problem solving and conflicts productively
  • Consistently communicating about group dynamics
  • Managing logistics of projects using effective project management tools
  • Developing shared work plan, timeline, and accountability systems
  • Supporting transportation, risk management, and funding
  • Supporting sharing of deliverables (in person, electronically, etc.)
  • Creating reflective spaces for meaning-making
  • Leading discussions connecting learning and experiences
  • Responding to written critical analyses/reflections
  • Leading online asynchronous and synchronous reflections (if needed)

For more information, contact us!

Diane Munroe

Assistant Director, Community-Based Learning

Diane Munroe is CCE’s Assistant Director for Community-Based Learning.

Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest Rm. 207

Center for Community Engagement
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3580