Components of Successful Service-Learning Courses
Research supports the importance of each of the following components for an effective service-learning course experience. Whether faculty members are cooperating with the Center for Experiential Learning or implementing a service-learning course design on their own, they should guarantee that each of these elements is present in their course(s).
Preparation: Students must be "set up for success" in their experiential learning venture. Preparation includes setting objectives for the skills to be learned both in the classroom and in the community placement, explaining the community aspect of the course to students before they begin their service placement, and making sure students have an orientation or training with their service organization(s).
Action: CEL, based on current research, recommends that students spend a minimum of 20-25 hours/semester engaging in the service work that is required in the course.
Reflection: Learning is accomplished, not simply by doing, but rather by reflecting on what one has done. Reflection requires taking time after the service work is completed to actively think about/write about/process the experience in terms of personal insights, community issues, and the academic objectives of the course.
Evaluation: The first principle of service-learning pedagogy (see below) is that academic credit be given for learning, not simply for completing "service hours." That learning is assessed through students' oral and written reflection on service work, and through students' integration of their service experiences into other course assignments, projects, and discussions.
10 Principles of Community-Based/Service-Learning Pedagogy
The following 10 principles should be kept in mind in implementing a service-learning pedagogy in an academic course.
- Academic credit is for learning, not for service
- Do not compromise academic rigor
- Set learning goals for students
- Establish criteria for the selection of community service placements
- Provide educationally sound mechanisms to harvest the community learning
- Provide supports for students to learn how to harvest the community learning
- Minimize the distinction between students' community learning role and the classroom learning role
- Rethink the faculty instructional role
- Be prepared for uncertainty and variation in student learning outcomes
- Maximize the community responsibility orientation of the course
(Jeffrey Howard, Ed. Praxis I: A Faculty Casebook on Community Service Learning. Ann Arbor, MI: Office of Community Service Learning Press, UMI, 1993)
Resources and Supports for Faculty
The Center for Experiential Learning serves as a resource for faculty, students and community partners in all aspects of the service-learning experience. CEL staff and the Service-Learning Program can directly provide the following services/supports:
- Assist faculty with service-learning course development
- Assist faculty with re-design of traditional courses into service-learning courses
- Suggest relevant and appropriate community service sites for service-learning courses
- Facilitate campus/community partnerships with community service organizations
- Promote and publicize service-learning courses to students
- Present service-learning program and/or potential service sites to service-learning classes
- Support students seeking community service sites with one-on-one advising and data
- Conduct pre-service evaluations of service-learning students
- Provide ready-to-use service-learning course forms (e.g. learning contract, hours log)
- Coordinate community partner site visits, orientations and trainings
- Facilitate student reflection on service experiences (in-class, “virtual class”, workshops)
- Publicize student service activities and service-learning projects
- Conduct post-service evaluations of student service learners and service sites
- Assist faculty with post-course evaluation, analysis, and re-design
- Support faculty service-learning-based engaged/action research and publication
Many resources are available to faculty via the CEL's Engaged Scholars Working Group page, a Blackboard community maintained by the Service-Learning Coordinator to provide a space for support and dialogue to faculty whose teaching, research, and/or service engages them in the broader community. Faculty wishing to become members of the ESWG should contact the Service-Learning Coordinator.