Overview of Service Learning
Over the past twenty-five
years, practitioners have devised many definitions of Service
Learning. Most address the integration of classroom instruction
and community service and emphasize students roles as an
active learners, critical thinkers and civic participants. While
there is no one definitive definition, the following selections
are well regarded in the field. You may use them as a way to begin
thinking about what Service Learning can be in your classroom.
an educational practice that combines academic instruction
with community service,
- Uses reflection
and critical thinking to emphasize personal growth and civic
responsibility." 1 (Pasadena City
- Is "any
carefully monitored service experience in which a student:
intentional learning goals and
actively on what he or she is learning throughout the
Society for Experiential Education, 1994)
- Is "a method
under which students learn and develop through active participation
in thoughtfully organized service experiences:
meet actual community needs,
are integrated into the students academic curriculum or
structured time for reflection
that enhance what is taught in school by extending student
learning beyond the classroom and into the community."
for National Service, 1990)
has been defined as both a program type and a philosophy of
- 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 way."
Research Agenda for Combining Service and Learning in
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."
Kendall, NSEE, 1990)
What are the benefits
of service learning for students?
- A connection of
theory and practice that puts concepts into concrete form and
provides a context for understanding abstract matter. This provides
an opportunity to test and refine theories as well as to introduce
- A use of knowledge
with a historical understanding or appreciation of social, economic
and environmental implications as well as moral and ethical
ramifications of people's actions. This involves a strong use
of communication and interpersonal skills including literacy
(writing, reading, speaking and listening) and various technical
- An opportunity to
learn how to learn -- to collect and evaluate data, to relate
seemingly unrelated matters and ideas, and investigate a self-directed
learning including inquiry, logical thinking and a relation
of ideas and experience. A transference of learning from one
context to another will allow for the opportunity to reflect,
conceptualize and apply experience-based knowledge.
- An emphasis on diversity
and pluralism that lends to empowerment in the face of social
problems; experience that helps people understand and appreciate
traditions of volunteerism; and a consideration of and experimentation
with democratic citizenship responsibilities.
Brevard Community College, The Power. July 1994.
study revealed several ways that Service Learning benefits
students. Specifically it helps students to:
- Improve academic
performance (GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills),
- Increase sense
of personal efficacy,
- Increase awareness
of the world,
- Increase awareness
of personal values
- Increase engagement
in the classroom experience.
- Develop a heightened
sense of civic responsibility
- Develop commitment
to activism and to promoting racial understanding
What are the principles of good practice for combining service
From 1987-89, seventy-five
national and regional community service and experiential education
organizations collaborated on a set of principles for combining
service and learning. This document, created at the 1989 Wingspread
Conference, sponsored by the Johnson
Foundation includes the nationally recognized "best
practices" in the Service Learning field.
An effective program:
- Engages people
in responsible and challenging actions for the common good.
- Provides structured
opportunities for people to reflect critically on their
- service experience.
- Articulates clear
service and learning goals for everyone involved.
- Allows for those
with needs to define those needs.
- Clarifies the
responsibilities of each person and organization
- Matches service
providers and service needs through a process that recognizes
- Expects genuine,
active and sustained organizational commitment.
- Includes training,
supervision, monitoring, support, recognition, and evaluation
to meet service and learning goals.
- Insures that
the time commitment for service and learning is flexible,
appropriate, and in the best interests of all involved.
- Is committed to
program participation by and with diverse populations.
Good Practice In Community Service Learning Pedagogy
While The Wingspread
Principles define an effective Service Learning program, they
do not address the specifics of Service learning pedagogy. To
remedy this, Jeffrey Howard of the University of Michigan came
up with the " Principles Of Good Practice In Community
Service Learning Pedagogy ." Widely used in the field,
these principles can serve as a guideline for first time teachers
or as a reminder for experienced practitioners who combine classroom
learning with service experiences.
- Academic Credit
Is For Learning, Not For Service.
- Do Not Compromise
- Set Learning
Goals for Students.
- Establish Criteria
For The Selection Of Community Service Learning Placements
- Provide Educationally
Sound Mechanisms To Harvest The Community Learning
- Provide Supports
For Students To Learn How To Harvest The Community Learning
- Minimize The
Distinction Between The Students' Community Learning Role
and The Classroom Learning role
- Re-Think The
Faculty Instructional Role
- Be Prepared For
Uncertainty And Variation In Student Learning Outcomes
- Maximize The
Community Responsibility Orientation Of The Course
the full text see: Jeffrey Howard. (1993). Community Service
Learning In The Curriculum. Praxis I, A Faculty Casebook
On Community Service Learning. OCSL Press. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
What are some effective ways to offer service learning?
as an Option
Service is an option
for partial fulfillment of course credits. Students who do not
choose the service-learning option are given an alternative
assignment. Experienced practitioners in the field recommend
that the service assignment not be offered as extra credit,
which can result in hurried last minute efforts, but integrated
into the regular curricular offerings. While respecting the
right of individual teachers to construct their own classroom
policies, the Service Learning center recommends this practice
which keeps an element of volunteerism in the service assignment.
as a Requirement
These courses are
similar to the Optional Model, except that service is mandatory
for every student.
are some effective models of service learning projects?
as there are many ways to offer Service learning in a class,
there are also many different ways to set up the projects. Three
of the most common are individual, small group and "one
shots" or one time projects.
select a nonprofit agency or a school whose aims can
be directly related to their course content and agree
to volunteer there. They complete a service-learning
agreement that outlines their goals and objectives for
the particular project. Service is usual scheduled at
a regular time and the student performs about 10-15
hours of service. During the service assignment, students
engage regularly scheduled reflection on their service
through journals and class discussions
works as a literacy tutor
designs a web page for a daycare center
Group Service Project:
form small groups in class and pick a community service
project to perform that can be directly related to their
course content. They complete a service-learning agreement
that outlines their goals and objectives for the particular
project. Service times are scheduled by the students and
usually require from 10 -15 hours to complete. During
the service assignment, students engage regularly scheduled
reflection on their service through journals and class
designs a brochure for a nonprofit group such as Friends
of the LA River.
creates a nutritional needs assessment survey for an
agency such as Union Station, that serves homeless children
volunteer for a prescheduled one-time event such as a
beach cleanup that can be directly related to their course
content. They complete a service-learning agreement that
outlines their goals and objectives for the particular
project. Service times are prescheduled by teacher and
usually require from 8-10 hours to complete. Before and
after the event students reflect on concepts and information
from the class that apply to the service project.
organize or assist in a hunger banquet.
organize or assist in a blood drive.
organize or assist in a community forum.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SERVICE LEARNING PROJECTS ?
These are just a
few examples of Service Learning projects performed in Community
Colleges. For more examples see: http://csf.colorado.edu/sl/
at Kapa `Olani Community College study kinship systems
while working with the elderly.
City College biology students do beach cleanups.
at Glendale College perform chemistry experiments for
local elementary students.
City College students lead discussion on diversity
and tolerance at a local middle school.
College English students write brochures for a homeless
at Kapa `Olani Community College lead teen reading
City College ESL students translate brochure materials
from the Friends of the LA River into their native
students serve as conversation partners with senior
students tutor local middle school and high school
students in algebra basics, which helps them understand
the fundamentals of algebra.