Service Learning

Cal Poly Community Based Learning

About Service-Learning

What is Service-Learning?

According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, Service Learning is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Service Learning is a great way to enhance the effectiveness of a course. At Cal Poly Service Learning is supported by a collaborative effort between Academic Programs and Planning and Student Affairs. The strategic plan for Service Learning at Cal Poly can be accessed here.

There are many ways to integrate community engagement into an existing course, depending on the learning goals, the size of the class, the academic preparation of the students, and the community partnership or project type.

What are the benefits?

Faculty Benefits and Incentives

Service Learning has numerous benefits for faculty members. Not only can Service Learning enhance the effectiveness of your teaching, but it can also provide you with new opportunities.

  • Academic learning in the classroom
  • Participation in service projects
  • Reflection of service and its relationship to the class
  • Service Learning takes learning outside of the classroom by having students participate in service to the community. These experiences allow students to apply course content to real-world situations.
  • Reflection assignments enable students to connect course content to their service projects and develop new skills, knowledge, and views.
  • Community collaboration opportunities for Research
  • Scholarship opportunities
  • Opportunities for recognition and reward
  • Opportunity for tenure/retention

Student Benefits

Service Learning enriches the learning experience of the student. Student benefits include: Learning experiences outside of the classroom New job skills such as critical thinking and working with diverse populations Applying academic knowledge and course content to “real life” situations Developing a sense of community and civic responsibility

Community Benefits

Service Learning projects take place in the community. Benefits for the community include: Providing the local community with hundreds of hours of student service per quarter Students and community members teaming up to work towards a common goal Alleviating local issues in the community Raising awareness of topics of concern in the community University Benefits Service Learning provides benefits for the university as well. University benefits include: Fulfillment Cal Poly’s mission and goals, including our “Learn by Doing” motto Bridging the gap between the university and the community Providing opportunities for the university to get involved in meeting community needs Overall strengthening of university/community relations

Service-Learning at Cal Poly

"I learned so much about myself and how I want to live my life. Working with my service learning organization was the first time I caught a glimpse of the harsh injustices in our world and I now know I want to dedicate time to change them." - Service Learning course evaluation

Each quarter, Service-Learning courses place up to 300 students in over a dozen non-profit agencies in San Luis Obispo County. Students in Service Learning courses provide over 10,000 hours of service to the community each year. Last year alone, Service Learning has linked over 900 students with 14 community partners to provide the community with about 3,000 hours of service per quarter! For a list of service-learning courses that are commonly offered at Cal Poly, please click this link to go to our courses page.

To learn more about service-learning and get involved, check out the pages for:




Contact Us

For more information, please contact Mr. Brad Kyker (Coordinator of the Center for Service in Action) or Dr. Anurag Pande (Faculty Liaison for Service-Learning)

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