Service Learning

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What is Service Learning?

Service learning is both a teaching and learning method that involves students in thoughtfully organized service activities addressing community needs and complementing students’ academic studies.  Service learning results from a curriculum that combines education and service, and includes class time for reflecting on the service experience.   Extending the classroom into the community provides opportunities for reflection activities which are designed to develop students’ critical thinking skills.   Service learning increases the students’ sense of social responsibility and citizenship.

What are the Characteristics of Service Learning?

According to the National Commission on Service learning, service learning:

  • Links to academic content and standards
  • Involves students in helping to determine and meet real, defined community needs
  • Is reciprocal in nature, benefiting both the community and the service providers by combining a service experience with a learning experience
  • Can be used in any subject area so long as it is appropriate to learning goal

Service learning is not:

  • An episodic volunteer program
  • An add-on to an existing school or college curriculum
  • Logging a set number of community service hours in order to graduate
  • One-sided: benefiting only students or only the community

Benefits of Service Learning:

  • Provides quality education
  • Increases the relevancy of education to students “living in a real world”
  • Enhances personalized education for students
  • Teaches positive values, leadership, citizenship and personal responsibility
  • Empowers students as learners, teachers, achievers and leaders
  • Invites students to become members of their own community
  • Teaches job skills and prepares students for careers after college
  • Encourages faculty to be innovative and creative in their teaching
  • Contributes to a university’s outreach efforts to the local community, the state and beyond
  • Increases campus-community collaboration and partnerships
  • Helps with community education
  • Contributes thousands of hours of service to people in need, nonprofit agencies, private sector companies, non-governmental and governmental agencies
  • Develops students resume of service to the community
  • Increases retention