What is Service-Learning?
To better understand service-learning, let's break it down into its parts and then take a closer look at defining service-learning as a whole.
What is service?
The service portion of service-learning should contain the following elements:
- Assisting people
- Service should provide assistance to those in need.
- True needs
- Service should address a lack of resources.
- Service addresses the needs of individuals in underserved populations.
- Organizational, not individual
- Service is most effective when conducting through an organization because it is designed to help the most amount of people.
- At-risk populations
- The populations being served are usually at-risk populations. When these populations are served, it helps the common good of a community.
What is learning?
The learning portion of service-learning should contain the following elements:
- Course requirement
- The learning should be intentional.
- The learning should be built into the syllabus.
- Related to the goals of the course and the course content
- The best way way to gauge the depth of learning is through reflection. There are many different forms of reflection, but the most often used reflective activity is journals with prompting questions. Examples of reflection can be found here.
Types of learning
There are two types of learning: preplanned and experiential. Preplanned learning is the learning that is intentionally designed to tie the service to the course content BEFORE the service is performed. Experiential learning comes from the planning and implementation of the service. This can include the research done to prepare for the service as well as all of the sensory input from carrying out the service.
Both types of learning can be illustrated with the example of building dog houses in a geometry class. Preplanned learning would include the hands-on learning of angles, which ties into the goals of the geometry class. The experiential learning would include the research on how many dogs need houses and why they need them, how to work with others as a team towards a common goal, and that building dog houses is not as easy as it looks.
In order to meet the criteria of service-learning, there must be preplanned learning. However, that being said, the best experiences come from the result of having both types of learning.
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is a teaching method that integrates hands-on application of course content with relevant service. Both service and learning have equal importance. Through the performance of service, students become more confident in their academic goals as well as becoming more engaged in their community.
Both the service and the learning portions of service-learning carry equal weight. In addition, all parties involved in the service (whether receiving or giving) equally benefit as service-learning is a reciprocal experience.
Last Modified: 08/30/2010