First Advisor

Heather Burns

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




community-based learning, community-members, complexity, critical, partnership, service learning



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiv, 384 pages)


Through a radical relationality within the social-ecological systems that sustain us, critical community-based learning (CBL) in higher education offers a praxis for engaging the demanding pedagogical and community challenges we face. When CBL is implemented as both a critical and sustainability pedagogy, as a strategy for social change, the relationships created by CBL partnerships have the potential to generate transformational outcomes for all partnership agents. Using a critical complexity theoretical framework, a bricolage of complexity science and critical theory, this critical qualitative study sought to understand the systemic patterns and behaviors of a community-based learning partnership by elevating community-member voices. Situated within a CBL partnership engaged with the Capstone Program at Portland State University, this study's methods included dialogical engagement with CBL community-members, university Capstone students, and partnership leaders in reflexive focus groups, and ethnographic participant-observation. The results revealed the primacy and centrality of relationships in the CBL partnership. Further, three emergent outcomes for partnership agents were generated by partnership relationality, including: emergent identity development, ethical agency, and a dynamism of belonging and alienation. These emergent agent outcomes across all stakeholder groups were influenced by four key factors: the dynamism of the partnership system, place as a partnership agent, information sharing, the cultivation of relational awareness. The strategies suggested by this study’s findings attempt to (re)orient the field of community-based learning towards the complexity of our CBL partnerships, encouraging a radical relational paradigm shift in the partnership work happening between universities and their communities.


© 2023 Amie Riley

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