Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Service Learning

Service LearningAs an institution dedicated to impactful hands-on education, Cal Poly has always emphasized the importance of community engagement and social responsibility in its academic mission. The Service-Learning program offers a structured community service experience that enriches and complements classroom learning. Through support from the Center for Service in Action (CSA; a division of the Student Affairs), the Service Learning program at Cal Poly assists faculty in developing or redesigning courses with a Service Learning component. The support from CSA includes help in identifying appropriate community partners, placement of students in local community partner agencies, and designing and conducting appropriate reflection exercises. These courses allow students to engage in service and reflect on their social responsibility. This page provides information for faculty and serves as a portal to the opportunities and resources offered through the Service Learning program.

Service Learning Overview

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is a teaching and learning method that links course content to the community through involvement in organized service activities intended to enhance the academic experience and encourage participation in the community. The terms "community-based learning" and "service learning" can be used interchangeably.

Program Benefits

Service Learning enhances student learning by offering real-life applications of academic knowledge and fostering civic responsibility. It also benefits the community through collaborative projects and raising awareness of local concerns. It supports the fulfillment of Cal Poly’s institutional missions of “Learn by Doing” while deepening university-community ties and actively addressing community needs.

How does service learning differ from traditional community service projects or internships?

Service learning is devoted to connecting coursework with real world service projects to enhance the effectiveness of the learning experience. Volunteerism provides service to the community, but does not offer opportunities to reflect upon the service. Internships are academically driven, making the community service the second priority. Service learning combines academic focus with community service and provides time for reflection, creating a fulfilling learning experience.

What courses can have service learning components?

Service learning can be integrated into most courses. The Academic Senate considers a course to be a service learning course if the community service component relates to the academic learning objectives of the course and is integrated with the academic content through reflection.

How do I find a community partner?

Local non-profit organizations make excellent community partners. When choosing a community partner, consider the type of experience you want the students to be a part of. A list of current community partners is linked from the main Service Learning web site.

Faculty Opportunities: Faculty Fellowships

Faculty are invited to apply for a Service Learning Faculty Fellowships, an annual program that supports faculty as they design their course that incorporates service learning. Details are available on Cal Poly's Service Learning web pages in the section for faculty.

For More Information

For more information, please contact Dr. Anurag Pande (apande@calpoly.edu), the Faculty Liaison for Service Learning.

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