HINTS on Service Learning

1.   Decide if your service learning project is going to be problem learning based.

2.   If your project is both service learning and problem based learning then you need to consider organizational structure carefully.

3.    Students should be competent with the tools necessary to solve the problem prior to attempting the problem.  In our case students have spent 1/2 to 2/3 or the semester learning how to analyze lead and how to make decisions for the selection of a method of lead analysis.



4.    In order to “buy” time for the service learning, our class is scheduled toward the late afternoon.  This means that most students do not have later classes and the class time itself can be incorporated into on site time.  This lessens the burden of the additional time and transportation.

5.    A late afternoon “lecture” class also allows good timing for potential collaborations with community groups.

6.   If your service learning involves collaborations with individuals those individuals’ needs should be fully considered.  Most “community” groups (and undergraduate students) have a poor understanding of the time and randomness associated with exploratory science.  There is a tendancy to want “just in time” science.   You will need to have at least, preferably, two, sessions that deal with education of your collaborative group.  You can use your students to create the necessary education materials.

7.    Because of the “just in time” expectations of community groups, there is a tendancy to lose interest.  The community portion of the project should be compact and sequential.  Do not plan for activities at the beginning of the semester with a five week absence and then again at the end.  We chose to run our activities as a concentrated set of interactions in a four week period.

8.   If you chose option seven be mindful of your students time.  Do not make your four week intensive work come during mid terms. 

9.    Because community based service learning raises numerous ethical issues plan on devoting at least one “lab” to ethical reasoning and feed back from the students.

For an example of labs and schedules click here.