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Project-Based Learning

Of this we’re sure: Students are more engaged in their education and retain more fully what they learn when they can apply classroom learning in real, hands-on environments. That’s why York College is fully committed to Project-Based Learning (PBL).

Taking students and faculty out of the confines of classrooms and into surrounding communities, PBL offers the chance to connect students to real life issues. When working side-by-side, community members and students pool resources to seek solutions to current social, business, and municipal problems. This collaboration benefits all involved. By merging classroom learning outcomes with community interaction, students engage in opportunities to make learning more meaningful and more significant. They experience civic responsibility, build a strong resume, and create stronger local communities.

Yorktowne Hotel project based learning intiative

Project Based Learning Resources

  • What is Project-Based Learning?

    What is Project-Based Learning?

    Project-Based Learning (PBL), most simply, is real-world learning. Rather than simply being tested on what you know, it helps you test yourself on what you do.

    Rather than starting with a list of things to learn, PBL courses begin with a problem to solve, a need to be met, or a project to be completed.  This allows students to identify what they need to learn to complete a real project with a community partner, and to apply, theoretical course content on a deeper, more direct level.  It has been proven that PBL promotes not only academic, but organizational and social understanding and the ability to work in teams--a key skill that employers look for as they hire and make decisions about promotion and advancement. PBL creates a three-fold benefit, engaged teaching, engaged students and an engaged public.

    In our programs, this can look like anything from students working directly with city youth in programs to help them grow their confidence, to an engineering project set on a better method of travel downtown on a borrowed bike system, to developing public policies or key community reports. 

    PBL also helps you to build and important network of relationships. Students enter the community as representatives of York College. understanding the importance of professionalism, social and cultural awareness, and skills for competently and effectively interacting with communities beyond campus.

    Project-based learning exposes students to the kinds of innovation that are needed to be strong critical thinkers who can apply class content to positive outcomes. Students directly engage with a community partner to address real social or business issues. Providing unique and rich learning opportunities. Students and stakeholders work together to explore and address the everyday challenges that face communities and organizations.

    Through a unique combination of critical thinking, academic research and hands-on experience. ideas that are ignited between college students and the local public Studies show the correlation between happiness and successful communities--and those who engage with them.

    For students, the experience allows them, sometimes for the first times in their lives, to sense civic and workplace responsibility. It is not just an opportunity to give their time and ideas, but also to gain self-actualization and self-worth.

    For faculty, it is an opportunity to see the young adults in their charge take on the implications behind the words of a text. For the community, it is a chance to see that York College is a member of the York community.


  • How to Incorporate PBL into Student Learning

    How to Incorporate PBL into Student Learning

    A successful PBL component takes a little planning. That’s where the Center for Community Engagement and the Center for Academic Innovation can help. From community contacts to logistics and best practices in PBL, we can assist in turning your PBL idea into an engaging course. We can help you think through ways to articulate and achieve your end goal is and to find the right community partner to work with you. We can also help you to develop rich classroom materials that provide students with opportunities for reflection and dissemination of data and/or implementation of projects.

  • Community Partners

    Community Partners

    Successful project-based learning initiatives represent equal partnerships with area agencies and institutions. This is, we begin by asking our partners what needs they have, then try to match those needs with students and faculty who can both help to serve those needs and to learn important skills in the process.

    Partner organizations of the Center for Community Engagement offer many possibilities for PBL.

    For civic engagement: The York region shares many of the challenges that similar sized towns and cities across the nation are experiencing. These can be issues of food insecurities, veteran’s rights, educational needs, economic development, etc. Many of local human service agencies welcome input by our students and faculty in taking on these challenges through PBL.

    For engagement with local companies: Combining the intellectual capital and research facilities of York College with the experience and expertise of area businesses and organizations can provide mutual benefit. This can include projects in Research and Development, logistics, marketing, and design.

    For engagement with government: The Center for Community Engagement and its Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy works with local, county, and state government as well officials on solving real-world problems. This offers a great array of possible projects with government officials and agencies.

    For engagement with the cultural community: The Center for Community Engagement offers both its own cultural center, Marketview Arts, and partnerships with the Cultural Alliance of York County, Creative York, the Appell Center for the Performing Arts, and many other organizations. PBL courses in the arts can give students the chance to have a real impact and to work with these groups on arts management, planning events, and developing showcases.

  • Academic Resources

    Academic Resources

    PBL has a long history and a body of scholarship surrounding its best practices and impact. The key is reflective practice---first learning by doing, then using that learning to transfer to other critical thinking tasks. York College’s Center for Community Engagement can help faculty to develop systematic and reflective learning opportunities that provide a significant experience for students in our community as well as in your classrooms, whether curricular or co-curricular. The resources included below reflect this focus.

    But we also know that our faculty bring a great deal of additional experience and expertise, so we want to learn from you as well.  Your help in adding examples and resources is appreciated. If there is an additional resource you would like to see on this list, please contact to have it added.

More than Word-for-Word
When YCP alum Kevin Schreiber, and former member of the PA House of Representatives, took a new position as President and CEO of York County Economic Alliance he brought along with him a project started for York County, a local resources guidebook.
Contact Us
Center for Community Engagement
Jo-Ann Orcutt, Director of Programming
Humanities Center, 200
Phone: 717.815.1545

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