Types of Service Projects

Initial Publication Date: November 30, 2010

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Course-Based Service Activities

One way to think about service projects is to describe ways in which service-learning experiences have been organized in the classroom:

(Excerpted from Heffernan, Kerrissa. Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. RI: Campus Compact, 2001, pp. 2-7, 9)
  • Problem-Based Service-Learning: According to this model, students (or teams of students) relate to the community much as "consultants" working for a "client."
  • Discipline-Based Service-Learning: In this model, students are expected to have a presence in the community throughout the semester and reflect on their experiences on a regular basis throughout the semester using course content as a basis for their analysis and understanding.
  • Capstone Courses: These courses are generally designed for majors and minors in a given discipline and are offered almost exclusively to students in their final year.
  • Undergraduate Community-Based Action Research: A relatively new approach that is gaining popularity, community-based action research is similar to an independent study option for the rare student who is highly experienced in community work.
  • Service Internships: Like traditional internships, these experiences are more intense than typical service-learning courses, with students working as many as 10 to 20 hours a week in a community setting.
  • "Pure" Service-Learning: These are courses that send students out into the community to serve. These courses have as their intellectual core the idea of service to communities by students, volunteers, or engaged citizens. They are not typically lodged in any one discipline.

Categories of Service Activity

While service project experiences can be as varied as their designers, it is often helpful to think of the service projects as one of three basic categories: direct service, indirect service, and research and advocacy.

  • Direct service involves student action which addresses the immediate needs of the community.
  • Indirect service address community needs through research, organizing, and/or community action.
  • Research and Advocacy involves student efforts to bring about change in social, political or environmental conditions that contribute to community needs.