What is Service-Learning?
What is Service-Learning? The National Center for Service-Learning defines service-learning through three key characteristics:
- Service-Learning constitutes activity that is focused on meeting a human need in the community where that need has to do with the well-being of individuals and/or of the environment in which they live.
- Key academic and/or civic objectives to be achieved through combining service with learning have been identified prior to the activity.
- Opportunities for students to reflect on their experience and its connection to specific academic/civic objectives are incorporated into the activity.
Please visit the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse website for other definitions and characteristics of Service-Learning:
Download What is Service-Learning? (PDF)
Principles of good practice
Combining service and learning
An effective and sustained service-learning 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 involved.
- Matches service providers and service needs through a process that recognizes changing circumstances.
- Expects genuine, active, and sustained organizational commitment.
- Includes training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition, and evaluation to meet service and learning goals.
- Ensures that the time commitment for service and learning is flexible, appropriate, and in the best interest of all involved.
- Is committed to program participation by and with diverse populations.
Jane Kendall & Associates (1990). Combining Service and Learning. Raleigh, NC: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education (Now named: National Society for Experiential Education).
Retrieved from: http://www.compact.org/publications/detail2.php?id=5
Service-Learning benefits students by:
- Linking theory to practice
- Deepening understanding of course materials
- Enhancing the sense of civic responsibility through civic engagement
- Allowing students to explore possible career paths
- Stressing the importance of improving the human condition
- Developing relevant career-related skills
- Providing experience in group work and interpersonal communication
- Promoting interaction with people from diverse backgrounds
- Instilling a sense of empowerment that enhances self-esteem
Service-Learning benefits faculty by:
- Providing exciting new ways to teach familiar material
- Offering professional development challenges
- Engaging faculty in meaningful interactions with the community at large
- Encouraging faculty to form close, interactive, mentoring relationships with students
- Reminding faculty of the direct consequences of their teaching for society
- Connecting faculty across academic disciplines through a shared approach to teaching
Service-Learning benefits communities by:
- Forming partnerships that foster positive campus-community interactions
- Providing access to faculty experts and the next generation of experts
- Identifying, addressing, and solving local problems in effective, creative ways
- Cultivating future generations of engaged citizens
- Encouraging multi-generational and cross-cultural interactions
- Establishing cooperation and collaboration as values within the local culture
Service-Learning outcomes for learners:
- Learning does not necessarily come from the experience of service alone, but from reflection on and creating meaning from that experience
- Service-learning can help young people grow from the natural dependence and egocentrism of childhood into mature personal interdependence and engagement in community
- Young people who serve learn holistically. All functions of personality contribute to development of the self
- Students learn and grow as they feel and think about service experiences (i.e., through behavior, affect and cognition). Because learning begins with behavior, students gain efficacy and self-direction
- Service-learning empowers youth to become service-oriented citizens and leaders
- Students who serve develop communication and leadership skills which aid in their ability to apply what they learn to the "real world"
- Service-learning participation has an impact on such academic outcomes as demonstrated complexity of understanding, problem analysis, critical thinking, and cognitive development
- Service-learning contributes to career development
Service-Learning outcomes for education:
- Service-learning addresses many key education reform objectives
- Benefits to schools include provision of valuable services and an enhanced school climate
- Partnerships between schools and communities, which result in citizen and community development, enhance public relations
- Service-learning can improve student satisfaction with the college
- Students engaged in service-learning are more likely to graduate
Service-Learning outcomes for the community:
- Service-learning contributes to community development and renewal
- Recipients of service benefit from direct aid, human involvement, and personal empowerment
- Agencies receive an infusion of creativity and enthusiasm from participating students
- Service-learning helps students become invested in their communities as community-minded citizens
- As students contribute through service to meet a community need, they are seen to be one of the community's greatest resources
Social outcomes of Service-Learning:
- Service-learning has a positive effect on reducing stereotypes and facilitating cultural and racial understanding
- Service-learning may subvert as well as support course goals of reducing stereotyped thinking and facilitating cultural and racial understanding
- Service-learning has a positive effect on sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills
- Service-learning during college has a positive effect on commitment to life-long service and volunteering
Retrieved and compiled from:
Cairn, R. & J. Kielsmeier, eds. (1995). Growing Hope: A Sourcebook on Integrating Youth Service into the School Curriculum. St Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council.
Eyler, J., D. Giles, C. Stenson, and C. Gray. (2001). At a Glance: What We Know about the Effects of ServiceLearning on College Students, Faculty, Institutions, and Communities. Vanderbilt University.