Research supports the importance of each of the following components for an effective service-learning course experience. Whether faculty members are cooperating with the Center for Experiential Learning or implementing a service-learning course design on their own, they should ensure that each of these elements is present in their course(s).
Preparation: Students must be "set up for success". Preparation includes having clear course objectives that relate directly to the service experience. Students should be prepared for the work they will be doing and the context (community, organization, policy, history) in which they will be doing the work. Students should also be introduced to and understand how the service experience is connected to coure content.
Action: CEL recommends that students spend a minimum of 20-25 hours/semester engaging in the service work required in the course.
Reflection: Learning is accomplished, not simply by doing, but rather by reflecting on what one has done. Reflection requires taking time before, during, and after the service work to think about/write about/process the experience in terms of personal insights, community issues, and the academic objectives of the course.
Evaluation: The first principle of service-learning pedagogy (see below) is that academic credit be given for learning, not simply for completing "service hours." That learning is assessed through students' oral and written reflection on service work and through students' integration of their service experiences into other course assignments, projects, and discussions.
The following 10 principles should be kept in mind in implementing a service-learning pedagogy in an academic course.
- Academic credit is for learning, not for service
- Do not compromise academic rigor
- Set learning goals for students
- Establish criteria for the selection of community service 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 students' community learning role and the classroom learning role
- Rethink the faculty instructional role
- Be prepared for uncertainty and variation in student learning outcomes
- Maximize the community responsibility orientation of the course
(Jeffrey Howard, Ed. Praxis I: A Faculty Casebook on Community Service Learning. Ann Arbor, MI: Office of Community Service Learning Press, UMI, 1993)
The Center for Experiential Learning serves as a resource for faculty, students and community partners in all aspects of the service-learning experience. CEL staff and the Service-Learning Program can directly provide the following services/supports:
- Assist faculty with service-learning course development
- Assist faculty with re-design of traditional courses into service-learning courses
- Suggest relevant and appropriate community service sites for service-learning courses
- Facilitate campus/community partnerships with community service organizations
- Promote and publicize service-learning courses to students
- Present service-learning program and/or potential service sites to service-learning classes
- Support students seeking community service sites with one-on-one advising and data
- Provide ready-to-use service-learning course forms (e.g. learning contract, hours log)
- Coordinate community partner site visits, orientations and trainings
- Facilitate student reflection on service experiences (in-class, “virtual class”, workshops)
- Publicize student service activities and service-learning projects
- Conduct post-service evaluations of student service learners and service sites
- Assist faculty with post-course evaluation, analysis, and re-design
- Support faculty service-learning-based engaged/action research and publication
Contact CEL's Service-Learning Coordinator today to inquire about cooperating with CEL on a new or existing service-learning course.