Planning a Service Learning Course

Service Learning develops students as active learners who become stakeholders in their own education. The integration of course content, community work, and reflection fosters an active learning environment that strengthens students’ social, moral, professional, and civic development.  It connects disciplines to help solve multidimensional issues that our society faces in mutual collaboration with our communities. It enables faculty to be creative and innovative with their research questions pertaining to community needs and allows students to be part of that reciprocal process.

Unfortunately, instructors often make the mistake of simply “adding” a service learning component to an existing course without ever fully thinking the project through.  It’s no wonder, then that half way though the semester they find themselves compromising their coverage of content, requiring more work than usual of students, mired in conflict resolution and logistical details, and utterly exhausted.

It makes far more sense to choose a focused, systematic approach to service learning that avoids these common pitfalls—one that recognizes the significance of the following:

  • choosing a reciprocal service project that is mutually beneficial
  • teaming up with responsive and reliant community partners
  • considering the situational factors associated with service learning
  • aligning student learning outcomes, assessments, content, and activities (including service) into a fluid and well-designed course
  • articulating the purpose and value of service learning in the syllabus and occasionally in class throughout the course
  • assigning continuous opportunities for reflection

If you are considering designing a course that includes service learning or adding a service learning component to an existing course, please attend the CETL teaching talk “Planning a Service Learning Course” on Monday, March 27th, from 10:00 to 11:15 a.m. in ROWE 319; register here.  Visit the service learning website for information on developing a service learning course or project and obtaining SL designation for your course.