Service Learning

Service-Learning as Pedagogy

Service-Learning Defined

"Service-learning is a pedagogical approach through which students engage in a service activity that benefits the common good, in collaboration with a community partner. The service activity meets course objectives, and through critical reflection, students examine the community need and its relation to their own learning and future application."

Simply stated…

Meeting community-identified needs through meaningful service, while achieving academic learning goals with and through critical reflection.

Benefits include

  • Helps to foster civic responsibility
  • Increases retention of academic skills
  • Engages students in purposeful learning
  • Expands the learning environment
  • Connects relevancy of academics to the real world
  • Reverses student disengagement from schooling
  • Improves school/campus/community relations
  • Provides community members an opportunity to share expertise and knowledge
  • Helps students network, build relationships and develop practical skills

Contact the Office for Service-Learning to access resources related to Service-Learning in Higher Education.

Authentic "service" is never something you do to or for someone, but rather with someone. This means that the community is actively involved in determining the service to be rendered.

We are in this together...

Service-learning practitioners understand that there is already a wealth of knowledge present in the community. Community members become partners and are involved from the beginning by sharing their real-life experience and knowledge. Community partners share their expertise about the kinds of service relevant to those being served.

Meaningful Service

Service-learning bridges two worlds which are often estranged from each other: the Academic and the Community. While there are many types of experiential learning opportunities, service-learning is unique because a community identified need is being addressed. This usually means working with  non-profit agencies and organizations, although there are a few examples of service-learning conducted in partnership with businesses. The main emphasis must be that the service benefits the common good, rather than enhancing profit potential.

Learning Objectives

Service-learning allows both academic and non-academic learning objectives to come to life. Students find themselves encountering concrete examples of abstract concepts. Practitioners often find that student participation and interest increases dramatically when course goals are matched with real world experiences.

Research studies indicate service-learning increases student learning even when in-class time is reduced as a result of service activities. For research on the usefulness of service-learning as a teaching strategy contact the UNK Office for Service-Learning or the National Campus Compact web site.

Critical Reflection

In addition to the service to meet community identified needs, students are guided through structured reflection to express their thoughts about the community need being met; the underlying causes for the need; the benefit their service has had on helping to meet the need; how the service relates to the learning goals of the course/project; what they learned about themselves; and how the learning applies to their future as an engaged citizen. Critical reflection differs from simple reflection because it is used intentionally to generate, deepen and document learning. (Clayton, 2008).

As with other course related assignments, service-learning must have measurable outcomes and requires considerable structure in partnership with the community agency/program.  Evaluation of student’s service should also be based on the community partners evaluation of the service as well as the faculty members evaluation of the learning. Remember service-learning must be reciprocal with both the server and the one being served experiencing equal benefits.

Remember, credit is not for the service but for the learning.