Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership

The Building Block: Engaged Learning

Engaged learning is service rooted in and intrinsically linked to teaching and/or research that encompasses community problem solving, as well as emphasizes student and faculty reflection on the service experience. The most critical component of this model is that the work is integrated into both the work of the community partner and the university’s curricula, creating a collaborative problem solving approach. This academic link fosters sustainable partnerships. Students not only learn by doing, but also by serving. At Samford, over 180 engaged learning courses have been developed in each of the University’s 10 schools and colleges.

What is Engaged Learning?

Engaged learning is at the heart of nearly everything the Mann Center does. It is a form of pedagogy and scholarship built on reciprocal exchange with communities both near and far for mutual benefit and development.

Well-designed engaged learning courses integrate academic content, community partnerships, and critical reflection to address the challenges communities face. At the Mann Center engaged learning is grounded in the Christian tradition and takes three general forms: experiential learning, community-based learning, and community-based research courses.

Experiential Learning

In experiential learning courses students encounter outside the classroom what they study in class. For instance, students in Samford’s intermediate Spanish classes regularly attend Latino cultural events in the city, while students in World Religions visit a synagogue to better understand Judaism.

Community-Based Learning

In community-based learning courses students have the opportunity to contribute to the community beyond the campus. Their experiences in the community are integrated into class during class discussions and in written assignments.

One example of community-based learning is the Samford Traditions & Oral History Recording Initiative (STORI). Through STORI Samford students get out into the community to collect, preserve, archive and disseminate oral histories from across the state of Alabama. This innovative program provides students with research and communication skills, while providing the community with a digital copy of their diverse histories through stories.

Community-Based Research

In community-based research courses students explore a critical question alongside a community organization with the results of their study assisting the organization.

Community-based research can also take the form of a collaborative effort between academic researchers and non-academic community members that aims to generate social action and positive social change through the use of multiple knowledge sources and research methods. Ideally, the research questions originate from off-campus communities and the process involves meaningful participation by all partners in every stage of the research. Students can be involved in this research through curricular or co-curricular approaches.