Why Place-based Learning Matters

[O]ne of the most powerful concepts framed through the civic renewal effort is the concept of “stewardship of place,” or an ongoing partnership between higher education and local communities that is designed to tackle and ameliorate festering social problems and inequities. When these kinds of reciprocal, long-term, collaborative efforts are formed, they provide a very powerful locus for both faculty and student engagement in civic inquiry and problem solving. They provide extraordinary opportunities for the academic community to learn from the insights and judgments of civic communities, with their multiple sources of perspective, energy, skepticism, disagreement, wisdom, and grass-roots decision making. These collaborative civic problem-solving partnerships model democracy in action. But they also bring a new rigor about evidence to the work of civic inquiry, analysis, and decision making. And rigor about the evidence we use to make decisions is urgently needed.

When we think about civic inquiry and learning in these terms—scholars, students, and staff working with community partners, taking a long-term responsibility for the quality of our lives in community—then, in my view, we begin to see the outlines of a twenty-first-century argument for the future of our colleges, universities, and community colleges as dedicated inquiry communities that are anchored in specific geographical places and responsibilities.

— Carol Geary Schneider. “To Democracy’s Detriment: What Is the Current Evidence, and What if We Fail to Act Now?” Civic Provocations. Donald W. Harward, Ed. Bringing Theory to Practice: Washington DC. 2012.