Since 2002, UCF has provided extensive programming in service-learning to its faculty and students. The service-learning experience at UCF has been defined as “... a teaching method that uses community involvement to apply theories or skills taught in a course. Service-learning furthers the learning objectives of the academic course, addresses community needs and requires students to reflect on their activity in order to gain an appreciation for the relationship between civics and academics.”
UCF has identified the following as essential elements to the service-learning experience:
- Reciprocity— The service and learning must be worthwhile for both the student and the community. There must be reciprocity between the server and those served.
- Reflection— Intentional, systematic reflection of the experience must take place in order to thoughtfully connect the service-learning experience with the assigned curriculum. Reflection is what transforms experiences into learning.
- Development— Service-learning occurs in different stages: servicing to enabling to empowering; observation to experience to leadership.
- Meaningful Service— Service tasks need to be worthwhile and challenging in order to strengthen students' critical thinking while fostering civic responsibility.
- Diversity— A priority is placed on involving a broad cross-section of students working in a diverse setting and with a diverse population within the community.
Service-learning is aligned with the philosophy of the following well-known Chinese proverb:
- I hear and I forget
- I see and I remember
- I act and I understand
In accordance with this vision, service-learning at The Burnett Honors College has two essential components. First, as a part of their coursework, students engage in some form of significant contact with the surrounding community through a community service partner. Then, the students reflect upon their experience in some context of issues, texts, and methods of the course. It is much more than “volunteerism for credit.” Rather, through service learning students and faculty collaborate with communities to address problems and issues, simultaneously gaining knowledge and skills and advancing personal development. There is an equal emphasis on helping communities and providing valid learning experiences for our students. Service-learning can take on many forms and requires that:
- Students learn new knowledge and skills that contribute to their education.
- Students have the opportunity to reflect critically upon their experiences.
- The service provided meets a need identified by the community to be served.
- Faculty members be actively engaged as teacher/mentors with students.
Students who are interested in learning more about service-learning, including how to earn a certificate in service-learning, are encouraged to explore the following website: www.explearning.ucf.edu.