Loyola University Chicago


Center for Experiential Learning


Service-Learning is a pedagogy and learning method that provides the community-based experience through which learning and critical reflection can take place integrated into traditional academic coursework. These experiences become an “integrated text” for the course and assist with making learning the subject matter even more dynamic and relevant. 

Here at LUC, Service-Learning is facilitated by the Center for Experiential Learning and has the following hallmarks:

  • Engaging The Material –We want students to think critically about how their academic course material is interplaying with their service-learning and lived experiences.
  • Encounter - The opportunity to build relationships with the residents of our communities is taken seriously. Service-learning is more than completing a task; it is about honoring and appreciating the history, knowledge, and assets of that community and its members.
  • Common Good – We ask students to consider their actions in the community in the context of building toward the common good. How might service and action help to build the common good? How might their learning, coursework, and vocational path ultimately contribute to the common good?

In ANY service-learning class, critical reflection (whether in-class conversations, written assignments, or final projects) helps students to “make the connection” between their community-based experiences and class content, helping them ask important questions about what this experience will mean for their future learning and life trajectory. Service-learning is one of the several engaged pedagogies that Loyola University promotes and encourages students to explore through it


As of Fall 2012, all approved service-learning courses fulfill the University's Engaged Learning requirement. 

Each semester, the Center for Experiential Learning staff works directly with faculty, departments/schools, and the Office of the Registrar to evaluate, approve and designate classes and sections of classes as "official" service-learning courses.  

Approved, designated service-learning classes can be searched for directly in LOCUS using the "Search for Classes" feature.  A listing of current and upcoming service-learning classes can also be found on this website.

For more information about the Engaged Learning university requirement, visit http://www.luc.edu/core/index.shtml.

Instructors or students who are participating in a class that would seem to fit the university's definition of service-learning (i.e. the class requires approximately 20+ hours of direct or indirect service to one or more nonprofit or community-based organizations and actively integrates that community-based experience with course content) but that has not been designated as such in LOCUS should contact the CEL at experiential@luc.edu

Research has demonstrated that participation in service-learning offers significant academic benefits for students:

  • A service-learning course design can increase students’ interest in a subject matter and enhance their understanding of its relevance for "real world" settings.  Loyola service-learning students overwhelmingly agree with this:  over 87% agree or strongly agree that they were "more engaged in [their] service-learning course topic" after taking their service-learning class (CEL survey data, aggregated, 2010-2016).‌ 
  • Classroom activities and assignments that require students to reflect on their own learning in connection with community-based experiences also build (self-)critical reasoning and communication skills.

Beyond these benefits, however, service-learning also provides students the opportunity to grow personally and civically:

  • Working in the community enhances students' sense of personal efficacy, civic responsibility, identity, and moral development.
  • Concrete engagement in community service also increases students’ social responsibility and citizenship skills.
  • Exposure to and reflection upon the life experiences of vulnerable or disadvantaged populations can challenge students' preconceived notions and expose biases and stereotypes that have hitherto gone unnoticed.

Finally, service-learning can provide students with real opportunities for professional development:

  • Students can use service-learning opportunities to test drive career options, learning whether a particular field is (or is not) a good "fit" for their personal skills and passions.
  • Loyola includes service-learning courses and placements on students' transcripts; many students also use them to highlight their (transferable) skills on their resumes. 
  • Finally, many Loyola students have turned volunteer positions connected with service-learning classes into internships, networking opportunities, personal/professional references, and even part- or full-time employment.

All service-learning courses/sections are designated as such in LOCUS, and can be searched for using the “Search for Classes” function.  The CEL also publishes lists of current and upcoming approved service-learning classes on its website, www.luc.edu/experiential and on the service-learning program website, www.luc.edu/servicelearning.

Finally, starting in Fall 2013, service-learning classes and sections (like all Engaged Learning classes) will now be designated with an "E" as part of their section number, e.g. UNIV 290-01E.  In classes with multiple sections, this will help students know which ones are engaged (e.g., integrate service-learning) and fulfill the university requirement, and which one's don't.  For example, in a listing of SOCL 101 sections:

  • SOCL 101-002  Krogh
  • SOCL 101-03E  Embrick

Only section 03E (Dr. Embrick's section) is designated as engaged learning.  

There are several ways to facilitate service-learning experiences or structure a class to engage students in a community-based learning experience.  Regardless of model, all service-learning courses involve two common elements:  1) Student engagement in a service experience that is responsive to community priorities and aligns with course outcomes; and 2) Structured opportunities for reflection embedded in the course (assignments, discussions, final projects) that help students draw meaning from their community- based experiences and connect them to course content.

Generally speaking, service-learning classes fall into one of three "types" at Loyola.

Placement service-learning classes require students to offer 20-40+ hours of direct service to a single non-profit organization as a member of their volunteer team.  In placement classes, reflection exercises help students learn from their on-site experiences, which should relate directly to the content of the class.

For example, students in HSM 220, "Aging in America" volunteer 20-25 hours at organizations that serve the elderly during the semester, and then discuss practical and ethical issues that arise in the context of their volunteering as part of the class.  The goal of this experience is to help them appreciate seniors as people, and not just as patients.  

Project service-learning classes engage students in producing a substantial deliverable for one or more non-profit organizations that function as "clients" for the students.  Sometimes, this product is research-oriented (e.g., a list of complementary community resources that a shelter can draw upon to further assist their clients); at other times, the students may develop concrete products for the organization (e.g., a business plan, a fundraising event, or an "industry video" that talks about the organization and its work).

For example, students in COMM 320, "Public Service Communication" break into teams to develop public service campaign strategies and materials for one or more non-profit client organizations.  Their plans must take into account the organization's specific resources and limitations.  The goal of the class is to produce a campaign that will actually be implemented by the organization at some point in the future.

Community Education/Advocacy service-learning classes challenge students to share the knowledge they have gained in their class with others (often youth or the clients of a non-profit organization) for the sake of advancing community understanding, advocacy on one or more key issues, or community organizing/mobilization.  Students sometimes prepare and deliver micro-units as part of a larger curriculum; however, events like student-organized health fairs or public symposia around important social issues would also fall under the framework of presentation service-learning, as would student-generated social media campaigns designed to educate the general public about key social issues.

For example, students in ENVS 350, "Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP)" organize a mini-symposium, often involving guest speakers and panel discussions and poster presentations, to share their community-based research projects and advance public interest in and knowledge of important sustainability-related practices.

In many classes, course instructors will designate either one partner organization or a small, pre-determined group of organizations from which students can choose their volunteer site.  In others, the choice of the organization is left up to individual students.

Whether you are an instructor seeking one or more relevant organization partners for a class or a student trying to find a service site that matches your instructor's specifications, the Center for Experiential Learning is prepared to help!  The CEL maintains a huge network of relationships throughout Chicagoland, and offers a number of resources for students and faculty interested in seeking out non-profit organizations with which to serve. 

For students seeking more information about identifying, connecting with, and documenting appropriate service sites for a particular class, check out this site of recommended partners or contact experiential@luc.edu to set up a time to talke to the Service Learning Program Director abouth other options.

Faculty or course instructors seeking to find non-profit partners for their courses or class projects should contact the Service Learning Program Director at shaarman@luc.edu  to discuss the specific learning goals of their students' community-based experience.

The Center for Experiential Learning has tons of resources designed to help students, faculty, and community partners make the most of their service-learning experience.  All of these can be accessed from this website, but some direct links are below.

For students who are new to service-learning, check out Service-Learning 101, a resource-rich site that features short webcasts covering all the "basics" of service-learning, including:

For faculty or course instructors who are looking to explore engaged teaching and learning in one of their classes, the CEL staff, especially Susan Haarman, the Associate Director and Service-Learning coordinator. We can provide you with:

  • Resources to support engaged teaching
  • Critical reflection ideas (discussion suggestions, assignment designs, etc.)
  • Sample syllabi and rubrics for evaluating students' engaged work
  • Opportunities for partnering with community-based organizations
  • Listings of available print resources dealing with service-learning, and an archive of digital articles about best practices and critical directions in the field of experiential learning.

Please contact us at experiential@luc.edu