Integrating Service Learning into a Neuropsychopharmacology Course

J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2021 Jun 20;19(2):A192-A200. eCollection 2021 Spring.


Incorporating service learning (SL) experiences into undergraduate courses can be a meaningful way to engage students and connect course content to the real world. Neuropsychopharmacology courses are often popular amongst undergraduate students, but it can be a challenge to find ways to connect the theoretical issues discussed in the classroom to the real world, and convey the complexities of research on substance use. This article describes a partnership between a 300-level "Drugs & Behavior" laboratory course and a local not-for-profit anti-drug coalition focused on drug education and prevention. A series of semester-long service-learning projects were developed that met instructional objectives and coalition goals. Briefly, students applied critical thinking and analytical skills to survey data on substance use, collected from local 6-12th grade students, that would inform coalition programming. By the end of the semester, students had produced scientific reports of the data, developed informational summaries for community distribution, and wrote a mock grant proposal incorporating proposed improvements to the study. During the semester, students reflected on the SL experience and took surveys on SL outcomes. Findings suggested that this SL opportunity helped students make connections between course content and the real world, enhanced skills or awareness in ways that added value to the course, challenged them to understand a problem and generate solutions, and expanded their thinking regarding their ability to help tackle substance use-related issues in the community. Suggestions for implementation and refinement of this experience are offered.

Keywords: addiction; data literacy; laboratory activity; neuroscience; pharmacology; service learning; substance abuse; undergraduate.