Service-Learning is a powerful pedagogy for all disciplines:
- It connects academic learning and community service. Service-learning provides students with active learning experiences that enhance classroom instructional activities. Through course-relevant community service experiences students engage in real-life application of knowledge while addressing community needs.
- It is one of the most appropriate teaching strategies to be used in the technologically intensive curriculae that our educational system will embrace in the 21st century. Service-learning will help maintain the human element in education by letting people communicate with each other through face to face and person to person learning and serving activities.
- Academic Service-learning is an excellent alternative to the traditional text-lecture-test approach to instruction. Through the creation of partnerships between universities, K-12 schools, and community organizations, academic service-learning contributes to curriculum enrichment and to the enhancement of the teaching and learning process.
A service-learning program provides educational experiences:
- Under which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with school and community;
- That are integrated into the students' academic curriculum or provide structured time for a student to think, talk, or write about what the student did and saw during the actual service activity;
- That provide a student with opportunities to use newly-acquired skills and knowledge in real-life situations in their own communities; and enhance what is taught by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community and help to foster the development of a sense of caring for others.
The core/key elements of service-learning are:
- Service activities that help meet community needs that the community finds important, and
- Structured educational components that challenge participants to think critically and learn from their experiences.
Activities in service give rise to learning opportunities, and what participants learn further informs their service. Service learning is a continuous process of reciprocity that, when implemented with care and expertise, results in high quality service in communities as well as personal and intellectual development among students.
Elements of High Quality Service-Learning
1. Integrated Learning
- The service learning component has clearly articulated knowledge, skill, or value goals that arise from the broader classroom and school goals.
- The service informs the academic learning content, and the academic learning content informs the service.
- Life skills learned outside the classroom are integrated back into classroom learning.
2. Quality Service
- The service responds to an actual community need that is recognized by the community.
- The service is student-appropriate and well organized.
- The service is designed to achieve significant benefits for students and the community.
- The service learning component is a collaboration among as many partners as is feasible: students, community-based organization staff, school administrators, teachers, and recipients of service.
- All partners benefit from the service component and contribute to its planning.
4. Student Voice
- Students participate actively in the reflection sessions, evaluations, and celebrations; take on roles appropriate for their maturity and commitment level.
5. Civic Responsibility
- The service learning project promotes students' responsibility to care for others and contribute to the community.
- By participating in the service learning component, students understand how they can impact their community.
- Reflection establishes the connections between the students' service experiences and the academic curriculum.
- Reflection occurs before, during, and after the service experience.
- All partners are involved in evaluating the service learning project.
- The evaluation seeks to measure progress toward the learning and service goals.