PSYC 327: Psychology Students Apply their Learning through Service

Experiential Learning In Psychology

by Heather Hare

PSYC 327: Psychology Students Apply their Learning through Service
Haleluya Yimamu at the Fairfax Pregnancy Help Center

Each semester, Psychology Professor Dr. Mike Hurley offers a course that integrates community-based learning in a unique way, Psychology in the Community. Rather than using a traditional text book, students investigate psychology by participating in community-based service learning. 

Students self-select projects in organizations in alignment with their learning goals and professional interests. Student interests vary, with choices to work in homeless shelters, youth programs, adult detention facilities, counseling centers and crisis hotlines. Projects offer students the opportunity to apply concepts they learn in psychology classes in settings that offer them experiences to deepen their understanding of their course of study. The community-based learning opportunities also provide students with practical experience that they can include on resumes and in graduate school applications. 

According to Dr. Hurley, “students who take this class often discover that what happens in the 'real world' is not a perfect reflection of what they find in their text books.  One of the great values in taking this class, therefore, is the opportunity to discover that, while classroom knowledge can provide a base and context for what students learn in a practical environment, it is no substitute for it.”

The course is offered in the Fall, Spring and Summer session, with fifty or more students enrolled annually. Each student contributes forty-five hours (1-credit) or one hundred thirty-five hours (3-credits) in community-based organizations, resulting in a total contribution of over 5,000 hours to the community each year.