Loyola University Chicago


Center for Experiential Learning


 Service-learning is a pedagogy—i.e., a way of teaching and learning—in which faculty members complement students’ in-class learning either with relevant volunteer experience at a local community-based organization or with a community-based project completed on behalf of a non-profit or community group. 

In ANY service-learning class, critical reflection (whether in-class conversations, written assignments, or final projects) helps students to “make the connection” between their community-based experiences and class content, enhancing their learning while providing meaningful assistance to the community. In other words, service-learning helps students to learn more while doing good.

Service-learning is one of several engaged pedagogies that Loyola University promotes and encourages students to explore through its Engaged Learning university requirement.

As of Fall 2012, all approved service-learning courses fulfill the University's Engaged Learning requirement

Each semester, the Center for Experiential Learning staff works directly with faculty, departments/schools, and the Office of the Registrar to evaluate, approve and designate classes and sections of classes as "official" service-learning courses.  Such classes require, in general, at least 20 hours of direct or indirect service to one or more community organizations, and incorporate numerous integrative learning strategies to help students make connections between their classroom and community-based learning.

Approved, designated service-learning classes can be searched for directly in LOCUS using the "Search for Classes" feature.  A listing of current and upcoming service-learning classes can also be found on this website.

For more information about the Engaged Learning university requirement, visit http://www.luc.edu/core/index.shtml.

Instructors or students who are participating in a class that would seem to fit the university's definition of service-learning (i.e. the class requires approximately 20+ hours of direct or indirect service to one or more nonprofit or community-based organizations and actively integrates that community-based experience with course content) but that has not been designated as such in LOCUS should contact the Service-Learning Program Manager.

Research has demonstrated that participation in service-learning offers significant academic benefits for students:

  • A service-learning course design can increase students’ interest in a subject matter and enhance their understanding of its relevance for "real world" settings.  Loyola service-learning students overwhelmingly agree with this:  over 78% agree or strongly agree that they were "more engaged in [their] service-learning course topic" after taking their service-learning class (CEL survey data, aggregated, 2010-2012).

  • Applying classroom knowledge to real-world situations (as is required in a well-designed service-learning class) requires students to employ the highest levels of reasoning and knowledge integration, per Bloom's taxonomy (cf. image, right), allowing for deeper learning.  Again, Loyola students confirm this:  over 84% agree or strongly agree that their participation in community service in connection with service-learning classes "enhanced [their] understanding" of course content by requiring them to apply their knowledge to real-world situations (CEL survey data, aggregated, 2010-2012).

  • Classroom activities and assignments that require students to reflect on their own learning in connection with community-based experiences also build (self-)critical reasoning and communication skills.

Beyond these benefits, however, service-learning also provides students the opportunity to grow personally and civically:

  • Working in the community enhances students' sense of personal efficacy, civic responsibility, identity, and moral development.
  • Concrete engagement in community service also increases students’ social responsibility and citizenship skills.
  • Exposure to and reflection upon the life experiences of vulnerable or disadvantaged populations can challenge students' preconceived notions and expose biases and stereotypes that have hitherto gone unnoticed.

Finally, service-learning can provide students with real opportunities for professional development:

  • Students can use service-learning opportunities to test drive career options, learning whether a particular field is (or is not) a good "fit" for their personal skills and passions.
  • Real-world experiences derived from service-learning work can be valuable learning moments to discuss in job interviews and on graduate/professional school applications.
  • Loyola includes service-learning courses and placements on students' transcripts; many students also use them to highlight their (transferable) skills on their resumes. 
  • Finally, many Loyola students have turned volunteer positions connected with service-learning classes into internships, networking opportunities, personal/professional references, and even part- or full-time employment.

All service-learning courses/sections are designated as such in LOCUS, and can be searched for using the “Search for Classes” function.  The CEL also publishes lists of current and upcoming approved service-learning classes on its website, www.luc.edu/experiential and on the service-learning program website, www.luc.edu/servicelearning.

Finally, starting in Fall 2013, service-learning classes and sections (like all Engaged Learning classes) will now be designated with an "E" as part of their section number, e.g. UNIV 290-01E.  In classes with multiple sections, this will help students know which ones are engaged (e.g., integrate service-learning) and fulfill the university requirement, and which one's don't.  For example, in a listing of SOCL 101 sections:

  • SOCL 101-001  Wiedem
  • SOCL 101-002  Krogh
  • SOCL 101-03E  Embrick

only section 03E (Dr. Embrick's section) is designated as engaged learning.  Closer examination of the course's listing in LOCUS would reveal that Dr. Embrick is teaching that section with a service-learning pedagogy.

Generally speaking, service-learning classes fall into one of three "types" at Loyola.

Placement service-learning classes require students to offer 20-40+ hours of direct service to a single non-profit organization as a member of their volunteer team.  In some cases (service internships), students may work as interns at those organizations, completing 100+ hours over the course of the semester.  In placement classes, reflection exercises help students learn from their on-site experiences, which should relate directly to the content of the class.

For example, students in HSM 220, "Aging in America" volunteer 20-25 hours at organizations that serve the elderly during the semester, and then discuss practical and ethical issues that arise in the context of their volunteering as part of the class.  The goal of this experience is to help them appreciate seniors as people, and not just as patients.  The students' final report for the course requires them to integrate their community-based learning with research they do on a topic that they learned about while volunteering.

Project service-learning classes engage students in producing a substantial deliverable for one or more non-profit organizations that function as "clients" for the students.  Sometimes, this product is research-oriented (e.g., a list of complementary community resources that a shelter can draw upon to further assist their clients); at other times, the students may develop concrete products for the organization (e.g., a business plan, a fundraising event, or an "industry video" that talks about the organization and its work).  In project classes, reflection exercises often challenge students to continually think about what they are learning while practically applying their academic skills to the complexities of real-world clients and situations.

For example, students in COMM 320, "Public Service Communication" break into teams to develop public service campaign strategies and materials for one or more non-profit client organizations.  Their plans must take into account the organization's specific resources and limitations.  The goal of the class is to produce a campaign that will actually be implemented by the organization at some point in the future.

Community Education/Advocacy service-learning classes challenge students to share the knowledge they have gained in their class with others (often youth or the clients of a non-profit organization) for the sake of advancing community understanding, advocacy on one or more key issues, or community organizing/mobilization.  Students sometimes prepare and deliver micro-units as part of a larger curriculum; however, events like student-organized health fairs or public symposia around important social issues would also fall under the framework of presentation service-learning, as would student-generated social media campaigns designed to educate the general public about key social issues.

For example, students in ENVS 350, "Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP)" organize a mini-symposium, often involving guest speakers and panel discussions and poster presentations, to share their community-based research projects and advance public interest in and knowledge of important sustainability-related practices.

In many classes, course instructors will designate either one partner organization or a small, pre-determined group of organizations from which students can choose their volunteer site.  In others, the choice of the organization is left up to individual students.

Whether you are an instructor seeking one or more relevant organization partners for a class or a student trying to find a service site that matches your instructor's specifications, the Center for Experiential Learning is prepared to help!  The CEL maintains a huge network of relationships throughout Chicagoland, and offers a number of resources for students and faculty interested in seeking out non-profit organizations with which to serve. 

For students seeking more information about identifying, connecting with, and documenting appropriate service sites for a particular class, check out Finding a Service Site on the Service-Learning 101 student resource site.

Faculty or course instructors seeking to find non-profit partners for their courses or class projects should contact the Service Learning Program Manager to discuss the specific learning goals of their students' community-based experience.

The Center for Experiential Learning has tons of resources designed to help students, faculty, and community partners make the most of their service-learning experience.  All of these can be accessed from this website, but some direct links are below.

For students who are new to service-learning, check out Service-Learning 101, a resource-rich site that features short webcasts covering all the "basics" of service-learning, including:

For faculty or course instructors who are looking to explore engaged teaching and learning in one of their classes, the CEL maintains a web-based community entitled Engaging Scholarship@LUC.  The community's homepage includes links to a wide range of resources, including:

  • Resources to support engaged teaching
  • Critical reflection ideas (discussion suggestions, assignment designs, etc.)
  • Sample syllabi and rubrics for evaluating students' engaged work
  • Opportunities for partnering with community-based organizations
  • Listings of available print resources dealing with service-learning, and an archive of digital articles about best practices and critical directions in the field of experiential learning.

Membership in the ES@LUC community requires the approval of the Service-Learning Program Manager.