What is Service-Learning?

Definition(s)

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Service Learning is “A method under which students learn and develop through active participation in…thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs, that [are] integrated into the students’ academic curriculum or provide structured time for [reflection, and] that enhance what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community…”

Service Learning enhances what students are learning in the classroom and gives them the opportunity to actively reflect on what they are learning due to their service experience.  The service experience provides a context for testing, observing or trying out discipline-based theories, concepts or skills. Likewise, the academic context enriches the service experience by raising questions about real world concerns and providing a forum for probing these concerns in-depth.*Outreach and International Affairs Office, Virginia Tech. Service-Learning Faculty Handbook

 The following elements are found in Service-Learning Courses:

Service that compliments the course or program content and learning goals, meets a community need, has adequate instructor supervision, and is appropriate to the context or students’ lives.

Planning and Preparation, when possible, should/can involve students in identifying the service, creating a time line, training and orientation.

Reflection that challenges students to think about and beyond their assumptions. Such reflection is facilitated by the instructor and can occur through discussion, reading, writing, and/or projects.

Recognition, formal and informal, as part of the course or program design, that acknowledges the value of student service.

 The following examples speak to the kinds of integration and collaboration that can be regarded as essential to Service-Learning education:

 

  • ESL students give lectures about their culture to local elementary schools.
  • Management majors help community members fill out their tax forms.
  • Computer science students develop databases for non-profit agencies.
  • Biochemistry students conduct seminars for teens on the effects of substance abuse on the body.

 

*Adapted from: Almonte Paul, Dorell, Hafflin et.al. Service Learning at Salt Lake Community College, A Faculty Handbook.

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