What is Service Learning?
Defining Service Learning
Service-learning has been defined as both a program
type and a philosophy of education.
* As a program type, service-learning includes myriad ways that
students can perform meaningful service to their communities and to
society while engaging in some form of reflection or study that is
related to the service.
* As a philosophy of education, service-learning reflects the belief
that education must be linked to social responsibility and that the
most effective learning is active and connected to experience in some
In other words, according to the organization: Facing
the Future, Service Learning is a "teaching tool that ties academic
curriculum to a service project that both reinforces and expands students'
learning. It is aimed at creating experiential education for young people
so that they can connect the learning to their own lives and provide a benefit
to the local or global community." (www.facingthefuture.org)
1. Students, teachers and community partners develop learning
objectives that meet educational standards and address the change in
knowledge, skills and attitudes they expect to see as a result of the
2. The project addresses a real community need and is linked to learning
3. Students have an opportunity to reflect on and learn from their
project before, during and after their service.
"Service-learning programs are explicitly
structured to promote learning about the larger social issues behind the
needs to which their service is responding. This learning includes a deeper
understanding of the historical, sociological, cultural, economic and
political contexts of the needs or issues being addressed." (Jane Kendall,
Teaching and advising, research and scholarship,
outreach and the community can all be enhanced through student and faculty
involvement in community service-learning. The goals are to involve
students in the community, to get students into explorations of the
workplace, to provide learning opportunities that integrate the skills
learned in school with realities of community life.
Benefits of Service Learning
Students benefit through:
* Hands-on skills/knowledge that increases relevance of academic
* Opportunities that accommodate different learning styles
* Interaction with people of diverse cultures and lifestyles
* Increased sense of self-efficacy, analytical skills, and social
* Valuable and competitive career guidance and experience
* Opportunities for meaningful involvement with the local community
Increased civic responsibility
"It brings books to life and life to books"
Faculty benefit through:
Inspiration and invigoration of teaching
Increased student contact through greater emphasis
on student-centered teaching
A new perspective on learning and an increased
understanding of how learning occurs Connecting the community with
Becoming more aware of current societal issues as they
relate to academic areas of interest
Identifying areas for research and publication
related to current trends and issues
"It changes faculty role from the expert on top to the expert on
The Community benefits through:
Access to university resources
Positive relationship opportunities with the
Awareness-building of community issues, agencies,
Opportunities for contributing to the educational
Affordable access to professional
Short and long term solutions to pressing community
"It shifts from community as laboratory to community as
The School benefits through:
Enhanced teaching, research and outreach
Faculty and student engagement in local and state
Opportunities to extend university knowledge and
Positive community relationships
Increased development and preparation of university
"It serves to light the fire rather than fill the bucket."
Elements of Successful Service Learning Programs
Service Learning consists of essential ideas listed
below, adapted from Teachers Without Borders' partner,
New Horizons for Learning
Service-learning activities establish clear
educational goals that require the application of concepts, content, and
skills from the academic disciplines, and the construction of one's own
Students engage in tasks that challenge them
cognitively and developmentally.
Assessment is used to enhance student learning and to
document and evaluate how well students have met content and skills
Students engage in service tasks that have clear
goals, meet genuine needs in the school or community and have significant
consequences for themselves and others.
Service-learning activities employ formative
evaluation of the service effort and its outcomes.
Critical Components that Support Learning and Service
Service-learning activities maximize student
participation in selecting, designing, implementing, and evaluating the
Service-learning activities value diversity in
participants, practice, and outcomes.
Service-learning activities promote communication
and interaction with the community and encourage partnerships and
Students prepare for all aspects of their service
work, including getting a clear understanding of the task, assessing the
skills and information required to complete the task, gaining an awareness
of safety precautions, and accessing knowledge about and sensitivity to
Student reflection takes place before, during, and
after service; uses multiple methods to encourage critical thinking; and
is central in the design and fulfillment of curricular objectives.
Multiple methods are designed to acknowledge,
celebrate, and validate student service work.