​Experiential Learning

UWSP's new General Education Program (GEP) is planned for implementation in Fall 2013. The GEP includes a number of new requirements including a First Year Seminar (FYS) and Interdisciplinary Studies. Also among these new GEP requirements is Experiential Learning.

In developing our new GEP, a subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee, the General Education Policy Review Committee (GEPRC), followed a six-step process to engage campus in developing this new shared curriculum.

(For more information, including details about each step in the revision process, please visit the General Education page hosted by the Office of Academic Affairs: http://www.uwsp.edu/AcadAff/Pages/generalEducation.aspx.)

Step 4 identified the "structural components and measurable learning outcomes" for the new GEP, including Experiential Learning:

Students benefit from opportunities to learn by reflecting on experiences beyond their typical classroom activities and by applying the knowledge and skills they gain from traditional courses in new settings.

To fulfill this requirement, students will:

  • Complete an approved experiential learning project.
  • Reflect on the experiential learning project in order to gain further understanding of their university education, and an enhanced sense of one’s personal responsibility as a member of a larger community.


Step 5 identified the "course and instructor criteria" for the new GEP, which included these details about Experiential Learning:

Experiential Learning will provide students with meaningful learning experiences and activities that go beyond traditional classroom settings.

The Experiential Learning requirement may be completed through one of two different options:

  1. a structured, recurring credit-bearing course or learning experience, or 
  2. a student-initiated experiential learning activity (ELA) that could be either credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing.

Experiential Learning Option (1)

A structured, recurring credit-bearing course or learning experience, and can include (but is not limited to):

  • service-learning courses (see below)
  • internships
  • externships
  • practicum experiences
  • field experiences
  • student teaching
  • credit-bearing study-abroad experiences

*Students transferring to UWSP can request to have a previous experiential learning course satisfy the requirement

Experiential Learning Option (2)

A student-initiated experiential learning activity (ELA) that could be either credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing, and can include (but is not limited to):

  • credit-bearing independent studies
  • undergraduate research opportunities
  • creative performances
  • community service projects
  • student leadership experiences
  • professional development through paid or unpaid work experiences or internships

*Students must complete the ELA while enrolled at UWSP

What Is Service-Learning?

The National Center for Service-Learning (1979) defines service-learning through 3 key pieces:

  1. Activity that is focused on meeting a human need in the community where that need has to do with the well-being of individuals and/or of the environment in which they live.
  2. Key academic and/or civic objectives to be achieved through combining service with learning have been identified prior to the activity.
  3. Opportunities for students to reflect on their experience and its connection to specific academic/civic objectives are incorporated into the activity.

Service-learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity changes both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content.

Service-Learning is not that same as:

  • “Glorified” volunteering
  • Internships
  • Compensated activities (i.e., being paid)
  • Logging a set number of community service hours in order to graduate
  • Any task that is not linked to course content and that fails to include reflection activities
  • Any task that is one-sided (i.e., benefiting only students or only the community)

Who can offer service-learning at UWSP?

Under the current GDR system:

Only faculty

Under the new GEP system:

Experiential Learning Option (1):  Faculty

Experiential Learning Option (2):  ELA Mentors*

*ELA Mentors include any UWSP faculty or academic staff member (instructional or non-instructional)




Service-Learning Definitions and Benefits


Types of Reflection


Service-Learning Reflection Activities


Nov 18, 2011 Handout (Sage & Palmer)


UWSP Faculty Handbook on Service-Learning (2008)



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