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Application Based Service Learning

What Is ABSL
Application Based Service Learning (ABSL) is a pedagogy that we are developing to address the need for novel approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at the undergraduate level. ABSL combines traditional service learning with novel undergraduate research on a community problem. For the service-learning portion of the class, students spend a set number of hours throughout the semester in a specific community environment so that they learn about and understand the community problem. In class, the students conduct novel research, using the scientific method, on various parts of the community problem and investigate solutions to the problem.

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How ABSL Developed
ABSL was developed as a way of providing a more effective and engaging method for teaching course content at a Ph.D.-granting university. It has expanded to bring undergraduate research to a non-research college and to provide real-world experience to students in a media-writing English course at a community college. Assessment data indicate that ABSL increases students' understanding of and interest in novel research, enhances content retention, improves writing skills, and provides experience with the application of the scientific method to less abstract research problems.

Online Student Communities
We are currently expanding on the successes of ABSL by building on-line communities of students at different colleges and universities to study different aspects of a specific problem. While ABSL was initially undertaken by biologists, our expansion includes other science disciplines. Several of the community problems we have chosen have immediate impacts on the community yet are little studied. In carefully choosing our community and research projects, student can learn how to conduct research, learn and troubleshoot scientific techniques, learn how to communicate science to the public and contribute to a novel research effort as part of a team.

ABSL Funding
The development and testing of the ABSL pedagogy is funded by a CCLI grant from the National Science Foundation titled “A Model for Incorporating Application-Based Service Learning in the Undergraduate
Science Curriculum (Grant number 0717685).” 

2010 SENCER Model Course
ABSL was chosen as a 2010 Model Course by SENCER — Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities. 


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256 Mellon Hall • 600 Forbes Ave. • Duquesne University • Pittsburgh, PA 15282
Phone: 412.396.1853