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.