Pedagogy matters: A framework for critical community-engaged courses in higher education

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Marilee Coles-Ritchie
Cathleen A Power
Chelsea Farrell
Maria Valerio


This article describes specific pedagogical components of a community engagement project between students in a psychology course and youth at a juvenile justice centre (JJS). The purpose of the research was to illustrate how feminist and critical pedagogies can create reciprocal community engagement that provides a space for learning at both college and community sites. The researchers involved in this study included the professor of the Psychology of Women course, a senior college student who previously took the course, the JJS volunteer coordinator and an education professor. Together, they employed qualitative, single case study methodology in order to understand the complex social phenomena of this community-engaged course. The results demonstrate that lessons addressing social inequities are beneficial for youth in JJS and offer a way to alleviate the gap in gender-specific programming. They also create community and offer an empowerment lens. By explicitly focusing on the pedagogical choices of the partnership, this research contributes to an understanding of how critical community engagement can provide mutual benefits.

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biographies

Marilee Coles-Ritchie

Marilee Coles-Ritchie has experience working in the field of language acquisition and equity education for over 30 years. She has a Masters of Teaching degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and a Ph.D. in Cultural and Social Foundations of Education. As Professor at Westminster College, she teaches educational foundations, qualitative research methods, and TESOL endorsement courses. She serves as Faculty Fellow for the DUMKE Center for Civic Engagement. 

Cathleen A Power, Critical Learning

Dr. Cathleen Power is an Associate Professor who has worked in the fields of psychology, gender, and community engaged learning in higher education. She is currently an education consultant with Critical Learning. 

Chelsea Farrell, University of Rhode Island

Chelsea Farrell is an Assistant Professor in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Rhode Island. She received her Ph.D. in Criminology and Justice Policy from Northeastern University. Her research focuses on how identity and context shape criminal behavior, victimization, and experiences within the criminal justice system.

Maria Valerio

Maria Valerio worked for juvenile justice services for 21 years in several roles including Counselor & Lead in two juvenile prisons, Case Manager, Parole Officer, and Volunteer Coordinator. She helped to develop community relationships to increase client competency development, accountability, and community connections.