How to Use Service-Learning
Preparing and Designing
The success of any service-learning activity depends on careful preparation and planning. It is good practice to include community partners in course preparation to include their insights and develop their support for whatever project is undertaken. Key aspects include:
- Defining effective learning and service experiences in the course
- Choosing a community partner that best supports learning, service and engagement goals
- Preparing students to serve by building student service and group skills by building community in the classroom
- Choosing the type of service project, placement or activity that best supports your learning, service, and engagement goals. Community partners can help with project design and student orientation before service
- To insure that faculty, community partners, and students have a common understanding of expectations and responsibilities it is important to have an agreement prior to the start of service (preferably, a written agreement)
Implementing a Service Experience
Effective service-learning requires continual communication between the faculty member, students and community partners.
- During the service experience, it is important that faculty members and community partners have a common understanding of each participants' responsibilities (e.g. student contribution, on-site student supervision, documentation of service activity, etc.) to effective monitor the progress and ensure the quality of the service outcome
- Post-service activity involves student service evaluation (evaluating student contribution) and service outcome evaluation (evaluating the service activity in terms of contributions to community goals and outcomes)
Learning Through Reflection
Reflection is an essential and critical component of service-learning. Eyler, Giles and Schmiedes (1996) note "Reflection is the glue that holds service and learning together to provide optimal educative experience." Through reflection, students ask questions, and put facts, ideas, and experiences together to derive new meaning and new knowledge. Critical reflection provides students with the opportunity to examine and question their beliefs, opinions, and values. Reflection can:
- enhance student learning through a deeper understanding of course materials, and higher order thinking and problem solving skills
- promote student personal development by enhancing students' self-awareness, understanding of community, and their sense of their own capacities
Assessment must start with clearly defined goals and objectives. Once these are defined, key indicators or measurable observed factors related to each outcome are identified. And finally, methods of obtaining needed information are identified.
- Assessment of student learning (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 195kB Apr13 10) through service-learning may include evaluation of academic content,personal development, and civic engagement.
- Assessment may also include the process and product of service-learning for the community partner (Microsoft Word 31kB Apr12 10)