Service-Learning Resources

What is service-learning?

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.

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.

How do I convert a traditional course into a service-learning course?

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.

What are some generally accepted pedagogical principles service-learning?

The Service-Learning Course Design Workbook contains a set of principles of good practice for service-learning pedagogy.

What elements should a service-learning syllabus contain?

According to the Campus Compact*, exemplary service-learning syllabi:

  • include service as an expressed goal;
  • clearly describe how the service experience will be measured and what will measured;
  • describe the nature of the service placement and/or project;
  • specify the roles and responsibilities of students in the placement and/or service project, (e.g., transportation, time requirements, community contacts, etc.);
  • define the need(s) the service placement meets;
  • specify how students will be expected to demonstrate what they have learned in the placement/project (journal, papers, presentations);
  • present course assignments that link the service placement 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.

What are some service-learning objectives for civic education and engagement?

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.

What are examples of reflection activities that can be used in service-learning?

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).

How do I evaluate the impact of service-learning on my students?

Download the pre-survey and post-survey our office has prepared for evaluating the effects of service-learning on students.

How should students conduct themselves during at their service-learning site?

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.

How do I minimize and manage the risks involved in service-learning?

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.

What are some guiding principles for building successful partnerships?

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health has established a list of Principles for a Good Community-Campus Partnership.

What should I consider while developing an agreement with a community partner?

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.

How might I measure the strengths and challenges of a partnership?

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?

The OCEP team members are available to connect you with community partners that seek to partner with USF around engaged research and teaching.

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?

PowerPoint on service-learning resources