How do I convert a traditional course into a service-learning course?
What are some generally accepted pedagogical principles service-learning?
What elements should a service-learning syllabus contain?
What are some service-learning objectives for civic education and engagement?
What are examples of reflection activities that can be used in service-learning?
How do I evaluate the impact of service-learning on my students?
How should students conduct themselves during at their service-learning site?
How do I minimize and manage the risks involved in service-learning?
What are some guiding principles for building successful partnerships?
Service-learning* is a structured learning experience that combines community service with explicit learning objectives, preparation, and reflection. Students involved in service-learning are expected not only to provide direct community service but also to learn about the context in which the service is provided, the connection between the service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens. Click here to learn about featured service-learning courses at USF.
Service-learning is a form of experiential education that:
- is developed, implemented, and evaluated in collaboration with the community;
- responds to community-identified concerns;
- attempts to balance the service that is provided and the learning that takes place;
- enhances the curriculum by extending learning beyond the classroom and allowing students to apply what they've learned to real-world situations; and
- provides opportunities for critical reflection.
Service-learning is significantly different from other forms of experiential education in that it:
- offers a balance between service and learning objectives;
- places an emphasis on reciprocal learning;
- increases an understanding of the context in which clinical and/or service work occurs;
- focuses on the development of civic skills;
- addresses community identified concerns; and
- involves community in the service-learning design and implementation.
* Composite definition from Jacoby, B. and Associates. (1996). Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Seifer, S.D. (1998). Service-learning: community-campus partnerships for health professions education. Academic Medicine; 73:2. In Seifer, S.D. & Connors, K., Eds. Community Campus Partnerships for Health. Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education. Scotts Valley, CA: National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2007.
Service-learning is considered a "high-impact practice" (HIP), or "an investment of time and energy over an extended period that has unusually positive effects on student engagement in educationally purposeful behavior" (Kuh 2010: vi). A HIP is effective with students because it allows them to interact with faculty and peers about substantive matters; increases the likelihood that students will experience diversity; provides frequent feedback about their performance; offers opportunities for students to see how what they are learning works in different settings, on and off campus; and brings students' values and beliefs into awareness, helping them to better understand themselves in relation to others and the larger world (Kuh 2008: 14-17).
Some common outcomes of service-learning are higher grades, persistence rates, and levels of academic engagement; academic gains (including application of course learning); increases in critical thinking and writing skills; greater interaction with faculty; greater levels of civic behavior, social responsibility, understanding of social justice, and sense of self-efficacy; gains in moral reasoning; greater tolerance and reduced stereotyping; and greater commitment to a service-oriented career (Brownell and Swaner 2010: 48).
Best practices for implementing service-learning as a high-impact practice include:
- Create opportunities for structured reflection.
- Ensure that faculty connect classroom material with the service experience.
- Require enough service hours (i.e., 15-20 hours) to make the experience significant.
- Focus on the quality of the service, ensuring that students have direct contact with clients.
- Oversee activities at the service site. (Brownell and Swaner 2010: 3)
Kuh, George D.
2008 High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
2010 "High-Impact Practices: Retrospective and Prospective." In Jayne E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner, Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Brownell, Jayne E., and Lynn E. Swaner
2010 Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
To help identify and track such courses, the OCEP has partnered with the Registrar to create a service-learning attribute. Courses designated as service-learning courses will be noted with this attribute, allowing students to search for service-learning courses through OASIS. With this attribute, students can find and get credit for enrolling in such courses. Moreover, the identification of service-learning courses allows Engagement staff to document and monitor the progress of engaged learning opportunities on campus, which is helpful when we seek recognition or accreditation through such institutions as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. At present, the service-learning attribute is added to a course when departmental schedulers notify the Registrar's Office by emailing the CRNs of service-learning courses to Louis Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org), Academic Services Administrator. For more information on the service-learning attribute in OASIS/BANNER, click here.
Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education contains a list of tips for getting started.
The Service-Learning Course Design Workbook contains a set of principles of good practice for service-learning pedagogy.
According to the Campus Compact*, exemplary service-learning syllabi:
- include community service as an expressed goal;
- clearly describe how the community service experience will be measured and what will measured;
- describe the nature of the community service or project;
- specify the roles and responsibilities of students in the service experience and/or project, (e.g., transportation, time requirements, community contacts, etc.);
- define the need(s) the service meets;
- specify how students will be expected to demonstrate what they have learned from the service/project (journal, papers, presentations);
- present course assignments that link the community service and the course content;
- include a description of the reflective process;
- and include a description of the expectations for the public dissemination of students' work.
* From Heffernan, K. (2001). Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
Examples of purposeful civic education objectives can be found in the Service-Learning Course Design Workbook. The American Association of Community Colleges has also assembled a Practical Guide for Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum. California State University Monterey Bay has also identified desirable outcomes of service-learning courses.
Check out the reflection activities compiled by Miami Dade College. Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse has a fact sheet on reflection in higher education service-learning. See also Northwest Service Academy's Service Reflection Toolkit, as well as the Reflection Template from Learning through Critical Reflection: A Tutorial for Service-Learning Students by Ash, Clayton, & Moses (2009).
General expectations regarding good student conduct are presented in an orientation to the Do's and Don'ts of Service-Learning. This presentation is designed for students who are new to service-learning. Let us know if you'd like to have a member of our staff come to your class to lead this presentation.
California State University has published a very thorough Best Practices for Managing Risk in Service Learning, which contains materials that can be adapted and modified. Examples of guiding principles of risk reduction are also explained.
Community-Campus Partnerships for Health has established a list of Principles for a Good Community-Campus Partnership.
Guidelines along with sample agreement forms and a worksheet for writing a partnership agreement or memorandum are available here.
What have community organizations recommended as guiding principles for forming university–community partnerships?
Check back soon for principles of partnering identified by community organizations.
The Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education contains a partnership assessment tool that can be used to measure the success of your partnership.
How can I find community partners or let potential community partners know about my service-learning course?
USF's BullSync database helps USF faculty inform the campus and surrounding community of their community engaged research initiatives and/or of community engaged learning courses they offer. Through use of an online database management system and an easy to use interface faculty can enter information about their service learning course and identify community organizations that are seeking to partner with USF.
Across fields and disciplines, faculty at USF have developed a variety of innovative service-learning courses with real-world impact.
Is there a "toolkit" for faculty who would like to learn more about service-learning pedagogy and how to develop service-learning courses?
Yes, Community Campus Partnerships for Health and Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse have published a Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education.
What are some examples of toolkits or handbooks that other colleges and universities have put together for their faculty, students, and community partners?
- Service Learning Curriculum Development Resource Guide for Faculty, California State University, Long Beach
- Faculty Guide to Service-Learning, Miami-Dade Community College
- Community-Based Learning Toolkit for Faculty and Staff, Weber State University
- Service-Learning Community Partner Workshop, Miami Dade College
- Service-Learning Handbook, Louisiana State University
Yes, there is a series of online modules titled Designing & Delivering a Service-Learning Course by Dr. Matt Roy (Assistant Provost & Director of the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, UMASS Dartmouth) and Dr. Dwight Giles (Professor, College of Education and Human Development and Senior Associate with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education):