Academic journal article Journal of Business and Educational Leadership

Understanding Business Concepts through Application: The Pedagogy of Community-Engaged Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Educational Leadership

Understanding Business Concepts through Application: The Pedagogy of Community-Engaged Learning

Article excerpt


Management is an applied field and it has been established that knowledge acquisition is best done by doing and learning. Business management is a skill that is developed and honed through experience and the key to understanding business concepts is through effective applications of theories in real-life situations. Community engaged learning (CEL) is a partnership between academic programs, students, faculty with community organizations (Community Engagement Collaborative, 2012) that aims to enhance student learning by engaging them in addressing key community issues. This mode of experiential learning can be integrated within many types of disciplines.

In recent years, CEL has slowly become an accepted pedagogy as more and more stakeholders in the society call for academic institutions to engage in the real world beyond the campus boundaries. At San Jose State University, community engaged learning as a teaching method is commonly used in the social sciences, education, humanities, engineering and even health-related courses as seen in the programs offered (SJSU Community Engagement Programs/Projects, 2012). However, community engaged learning has yet to find a wider acceptance within the business courses. The purpose of this research is to create awareness for, and establish community engaged learning as an effective supplemental teaching method for understanding the application of business concepts and theories within the context of the community setting.


Experiential learning activities are perceived to be educational and engaging. It provides an opportunity for students to get immersed within a given environment and directs the participants to "learn-by-doing". There are several publications over the past decades asserting the effectiveness of experiential learning (Kolb & Kolb, 2005; Kenworthy-U'Ren, 2008; Harrison and Knight, 2015; Ritchie and McCorriston, 2015). and some of the most commonly cited advantages of this learning method include (Devasagayam et al, 2012; Clark, 2017):

* Helping students understand the value of teamwork

* Honing students' strategic planning and critical thinking skills

* Aiding educators teach "real-life" analytical techniques

* Encouraging active learning and participation

* Helping students live and experience the theories and concepts that they learn in class

David Kolb's (1984) theory on experiential learning suggests that effective learning takes place when the learner is able to complete a cycle of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Fig. 1).

Business is one of the more popular fields of study in higher education. Past studies have highlighted the narrowness and the indifference of the business school curriculum to the external environment of business (Rishi, 2007) because the inordinate emphasis on learning and mastering business management theories and concepts at the expense of the practical application of these knowledge and skills. The result are groups of business graduates who do not have an idea on how to practically apply concepts they have learned while in school (Ayers, et al., 2010). This presents a dilemma to business students, educators and administrators, as well as the employers of business graduates who are interested in hiring students that possess "analytical, problem-solving and evaluative skills" (Brzovic & Matz, 2009).

Community engaged Learning (CEL) is a form of experiential learning of which the practice can be traced back to several precursor activities including the "action research model" initially promoted by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s (Dallimore et al, 2010) and the more recent practices of "participatory research" (Benson et al, 2007). A comprehensive study spanning two decades discussed community engaged learning as a powerful pedagogical tool to enhance the common good (Zlotkowski & Duffy, 2010). …

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