What is Service-Learning?

Initial Publication Date: September 25, 2006

"Service-learning is a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students work with others through a process of applying what they are learning to community problems, and at the same time, reflecting upon their experience as they seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding for themselves" Eyler and Giles, (1999). Key Components & Partners of Service-Learning
Service-learning is a flexible pedagogy which can be used in a variety of classroom and community settings. Students, Community Partners, and Instructors are key players in developing effective service-learning activities. Service-learning is connected to course content and is organized around clear learning goals; service-learning provides meaningful service activities which address real community needs as defined by the community; and service-learning provides students opportunities for critical reflection upon their service experiences.

Service-learning can be also be described by what it is not; it is NOT volunteerism, community service, internships, or field education. Field education and internships emphasize student learning: while students may provide valuable service, the objective is to provide students hands on experience to further their educational goals. Volunteerism and community service emphasize the service provided: the intended beneficiary is the service recipient (Furco 1996). So while service-learning share some of the components of volunteerism, community service, internships and field education, unlike these activities, service-learning applies equal focus to both learning and the service goals. It requires an academic context and is designed so that that the service and learning goals are mutually reinforcing. A useful distinction among service programs can be typified by whether the beneficiary is the recipient (community agency/member) or provider (student) or the focus is on learning or service. Furco Distinctions of Service Spectrum

Effective Service-Learning Practice

Effective service-learning practice supports both student learning and community service goals. Learning practices are grounded in objectives, enhance disciplinary skills, engage students in well-defined tasks, and allow for both formative and summative assessment. Service activities meet genuine community needs, provide meaningful tasks for students, and promote communication and collaboration with community members. further discuss these goals.