Quality Criteria

The National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) has developed a matrix, which helps teachers examine the quality of their service-learning activities based on criteria established by experienced service learning educators across the country. The matrix is composed of three clusters:

Each cluster consists of essential elements as listed below.

Cluster I: Learning

  • Service-learning activities establish clear educational goals that require the application of concepts, content and skills from the academic disciplines, and the construction of one's own knowledge.
  • Students engage in tasks that challenge them cognitively and developmentally.
  • Assessment is used to enhance student learning and to document and evaluate how well students have met content and skills standards.

Cluster II: Service

  • Student engage in service tasks that have clear goals, meet genuine needs in the school or community and have significant consequences for themselves and others.
  • Service-learning activities employ formative evaluation of the service effort and its outcomes.

Cluster III: Critical Components that Support Learning and Service

  • Service-learning activities maximize student participation in selecting, designing, implementing, and evaluating the service project.
  • Service-learning activities value diversity in participants, practice, and outcomes.
  • Service-learning activities promote communication and interaction with the community and encourage partnerships and collaboration.
  • Students prepare for all aspects of their service work, including a clear understanding of the task, the skills and information required to complete the task, awareness of safety precautions, and knowledge about and sensitivity to colleagues.
  • Student reflection takes place before, during, and after service; uses multiple methods to encourage critical thinking; and is central in the design and fulfillment of curricular objectives.

Multiple methods are designed to acknowledge, celebrate, and validate student service work.

What are the elements of high quality service-learning?