Frequently Asked Questions regarding Service-Learning
Guido L. Davis Del Piccolo (8/2001)

What is Service-Learning?

Does Service-Learning change or modify the course objectives/outcomes?

Are students receiving academic credit for community service hours?

Is student “reflection” required?

Is Service-Learning applicable in all disciplines or is it “discipline specific”?

Should all faculty members use Service-Learning?

How does Service-Learning differ from other types of experiential learning?

Who is the driving force behind Service-Learning?

Is Service-Learning just “busywork” assigned to students so that faculty members have more free time?

What are the documented benefits of Service-Learning?

What is the role of the “Service-Learning Center” and its personnel?

What is the role of the “Service-Learning Faculty Leader”?  

Where can I learn more about Service-Learning?


What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is an instructional method that integrates community service with academic instruction as it focuses on critical, reflective thinking.

Service-Learning is an instructional method that promotes student learning through active participation in thoughtfully organized community service experiences that:

·  are conducted in and meet the needs of a specific community,

·  are coordinated with an educational institution, community based organization, and/or health care related agency,

·  foster civic responsibility,

·  include structured time and activities for students to reflect on their service experience, and

·  are integrated into and enhance the academic studies of the students.

 

back to top

Does Service-Learning change or modify the course objectives/outcomes?

No.  Service-Learning is a pedagogy—a method—to achieve the existing course objectives.  Just as collaborative learning (i.e., group work), lecture, field research, labs, etc. are all methods used to achieve course objectives, so too is Service-Learning.  In a sense, one could consider Service-Learning as simply a different “homework assignment” (albeit, an extremely valuable one).

back to top

Are students receiving academic credit for community service hours?

No.  In Service-Learning, the students are given credit for the learning, not the service.  This learning can be assessed in many ways, but is typically done through an evaluation of reflective journals, final papers, class presentations, etc. which integrate their experiences with the course curriculum.  In theory (though not likely) a student could engage in the required numbers of hours, but not receive a passing grade for the “service-learning assignment” and/or the course.

back to top

Is student “reflection” required?

Yes.  This is a central aspect that distinguishes Service-Learning from other forms of experiential education (see #7 below).  It is precisely this “reflection” which enables students to integrate their experiences with the course material.  Moreover, the “reflection” is what is typically assessed by the instructor.  Reflection is characteristically conducted through journal writing, final papers, and/or class discussions.

back to top

Is Service-Learning applicable in all disciplines or is it “discipline specific”?

Service-Learning has been applied to ALL disciplines.  While Service-Learning has a more “natural” fit with some disciplines, it has been applied across the curriculum.  What is essential is recognition of the particular objectives of a course and the degree to which these objectives might be met and/or enhanced through Service-Learning. 

back to top

Should all faculty members use Service-Learning?

No.  Only faculty members who have an interest in this pedagogy and, as a result of this interest, have explored it, investigated it, and thoughtfully designed it to apply to their course(s) should use Service-Learning.  As we can all attest, jumping into a classroom setting unprepared can be unnerving, ineffective, and even unproductive.  (For example, putting students into groups without a clear sense of the objective for doing so lacks effectiveness.)  Service-Learning is a pedagogy that, as with any method, requires an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings and practical application.  Thus, only those faculty members who feel sufficiently prepared should use it.  

back to top

How does Service-Learning differ from other types of experiential learning?

There are numerous pedagogies (methods) used to bring about or encourage learning.  Below is a very general (and entirely incomplete) “outline” to illustrate what Service-Learning is and how it differs from other programs and pedagogies.

PEDAGOGY

Internship

·Emphasizes hands-on experiences that enhance understanding of issues relevant to a specific area of study

·May involve monetary compensation

·May or may not address unmet community needs

·Usually places minimal emphasis on students providing service to the site or agency

Field Study

·Involves co-curricular service opportunities that support, but are directly integrated formally into the academic course or curriculum

·Primary focus is to increase/enhance student understanding of a particular area of study

·May or may not address unmet community needs

Clinical

·Supervised, structured experiences in a health care facility in which students assess, plan, implement, and evaluate health care related procedures using the conceptual framework specific to their discipline

·Allows students to practice and apply theories and skills learned in the classroom

·Involves no monetary compensation

·Mandatory for completion of related certificate and degree programs

Cooperative Education

·Combines classroom instruction with planned, supervised work experience in an occupational setting

·Emphasizes skill application/development in the student’s major field of study

·Often involves occupational/technical areas

·Usually involves monetary compensation

·Involves collaboration with the employing organizations

Service-Learning

·An integration of academic study and community service

·Connecting classroom instruction with real-life situations

·Students make contributions to the community while using the community site as an opportunity for learning

·Emphasis is on linking the student’s projects, instruction, and/or community service with broader community awareness (citizenship)

·Always involves a reflection component

·Involves a triangular relationship between students, the institution, and the community and benefits all parties

·Addresses unmet community needs

back to top

Who is the driving force behind Service-Learning?

Faculty.  As a pedagogy, it is faculty who initiate it, design it, and cultivate it to fit their course curriculum.  Faculty can and have integrated Service-Learning into their courses in many different ways including a course requirement, extra credit, honors/scholars credit, in-course option, or additional unit.  Many colleges also have “stand alone” Service-Learning courses.

back to top

Is Service-Learning just “busywork” assigned to students so that faculty members have more free time?

On the contrary, faculty wishing to engage in Service-Learning to give themselves more free time should think again.  Faculty engage in Service-Learning out of a commitment to student learning.  Those who use “non-lecture pedagogies” already recognize that for methods such as group work, technology, and field research to be successful requires substantial effort on the part of the faculty.  Quality Service-Learning is not easy; faculty who engage in it should be recognized, commended, and rewarded by the institution and their colleagues. 

back to top

What are the documented benefits of Service-Learning?

There are many studies available. Recently (1/2000), the Higher Education Research Institute (UCLA) completed a longitudinal study: “How Service Learning Affects Students”.  The data reveal that community service participation shows “significant positive effects on all 11 outcome measures” of academic performance, values, self-efficacy, leadership, choice of a service career, and plans to participate in service after college.  Performing service as part of a course (Service-Learning) ADDS SIGNIFICANTLY to the benefits associated with community service for 8 of the 11 outcome measures.  Moreover, benefits associated with course-based service learning were strongest for the academic outcomes, especially writing skills.  Copies of the Executive Summary can be downloaded from: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/slc/rhowas.

back to top

What is the role of the “Service-Learning Center” and its personnel?

The role of the “Service-Learning Center” and its personnel is to support faculty members who are engaged in or wish to engage in Service-Learning.  Thus, the “Service-Learning Center” primarily facilitates the implementation of the “service” side of the pedagogy.  But the “Center” can also facilitate the “learning” side by offering students further opportunities to critically reflect on their service experiences in a multi-dimensional/multi-disciplinary way.  Further, the “Center” can provide “service-learning specific” counseling and direction for students that can significantly affect issues such as retention and success.  The “Center” also serves as a “liaison” between the faculty member, institution, community agencies, and the student.

back to top

What is the role of the “Service-Learning Faculty Leader”?

The role of the “Service-Learning Faculty Leader” is to recruit, support, advise, and provide referrals to faculty members who are engaged in or wish to engage in Service-Learning.  The “faculty leader” conducts or facilitates faculty trainings in Service-Learning pedagogy, as well as, promotes the sharing of ideas and experiences among involved faculty.

back to top

Where can I learn more about Service-Learning?

To learn more about Service-Learning, call or visit SMC’s Service-Learning Program Office (LV 125) at x8205; or the Program Director, Linda Sinclair, at x8205; or the Faculty Leader, Guido Davis Del Piccolo at x3561. There are also many publications available, some of which we have on campus and there is a plethora of information available regarding Service-Learning on the world wide web.  Several recommended sites can be found on our "Service-Learning Useful Links" Page.