Promotes A Deep Approach to Learning

Initial Publication Date: November 30, 2010

Thinker thru window
What is Deep Learning?

Service-learning is a form of experiential learning which facilitates a deep approach to learning. Deep learners transform 'factual knowledge into usable knowledge' (Bransford, et al., 2000:16) which requires critical thinking skills, integration of knowledge over time and subjects, a theoretical application of knowledge to practical situations and higher order skills of analysis and synthesis (Briggs, 1999; Entwistle, 1981; Prosser and Trigwell, 1999; and Ramsden, 2003).When students have opportunities to actively use classroom knowledge, they develop an understanding of when and how knowledge can be applied in different contexts.

Why Does Service-Learning Promote A Deep Approach to Learning

Service-learning requires that students use classroom knowledge to provide effective community service. As Howard (1993:49) notes, participants in service-learning:
  • apply knowledge by applying and testing academic learning
  • synthesize knowledge by bringing together past and present learning to add coherence to students' studies
  • critically think and analyze by learning to distinguish what is and what is not important in the unfiltered context of the real world
  • learn about cultural diversity by learning with, from, and about people different from themselves
  • develop values through experience with community issues and problems
  • learn inductive reasoning by using specific experience as a starting point for hypothesizing and theorizing

How Service-Learning Promotes A Deep Approach to Learning

Promoting a deep approach to learning necessitates reflection on learning, and both formative and summative assessment of learning. A learner- and community- centered learning environment facilitates a deep approach to learning.

  • Reflection, a crucial component of service-learning, is key to the learning process and supports a deep approach to learning. It enables the learner to make sense of past experiences in order to affect and understand future experiences (Daudelin, 1996).
  • Formative assessment provides students with feedback on their learning processes and should be a component of well-structured reflection experiences in service-learning. Summative assessment test students' understanding of foundational knowledge, and require students to demonstrate their abilities to transfer knowledge to a new context.
  • The learner-centered environment of service-learning promotes deep learning by encouraging students to make connections between current knowledge, previous experiences, and the service or academic task at hand. The community-based nature of service-learning experiences promotes deep learning: students are more motivated to learn when they see the usefulness of what they are learning and believe their knowledge can contribute something to their local communities (Swartz et al., 1998).