Community-Based Learning at USF

Faculty and Students

The OCEP seeks to support community-based learning efforts in multiple ways:

Extending learning beyond the classroom can be very beneficial to students. Experiential pedagogies of many kinds have long been a key part of professional education programs, and have become increasingly common across the undergraduate and graduate curriculum.

Community-based learning is a particular kind of experiential learning that combines classroom instruction with some sort of community-based project that is developed in cooperation with, and provides some benefit to members of the broader community. There is a rich literature characterizing service-learning; we have adopted this abbreviated working definition:

"Service-learning is defined as a method of teaching that includes experiential learning, classroom instruction, and reflection. Typically service learning courses work in cooperation with a community partner and students engage in at least 15 hours service during the semester."

The benefits of service-learning are multiple. There are a number of studies (please see our Bibliography for examples) showing that students who participate in service-learning courses are more likely to graduate; get better grades; and become more involved citizens than those who do not have this experience. Benefits to community partners have not been studied as systematically, but there is ample anecdotal evidence that well-designed service-learning projects can deliver meaningful advantages to local participants. Finally, designing service-learning courses can be useful to faculty, too, as service-learning can be constructed to complement research interests.