10 Principles to Practice in Academic Service-Learning
Students earn academic credit for academic learning, not service.
Courses with a service-learning component are no different than courses without one in terms of grading students on what they have learned and the academic quality of their work. The service learning component simply provides another avenue for learning specifically in the application of course concepts to “real world” issues and problems.
Service-Learning should not compromise academic rigor.
When done right service-learning will actually enhance the course rigor since students will need to learn in the class and apply what they are learning in their service-learning experience.
Set learning goals for students.
The use of the community as a new context for learning increases the number of learning paradigms and possible topics to be explored for a given class. Sorting out those of the greatest priority and application to the course requires setting specific learning goals for students.
Establish criteria when selecting places for students to provide service.
All service-learning courses should at a minimum meet the following criteria:
- The range of possible service sites/projects should be set by the ability to relate to course content.
- The time spent on the service project must be enough to fulfill learning goals.
- The activities and service contexts must have the potential to stimulate course-relevant learning.
Assignments and formats should facilitate learning before and after the service project.
The service experience in and of itself does not qualify for academic learning, students must be equipped to get the most from their experience before and after the service project. Presentations, journaling, discussions, research, and assignments that provide a venue for analysis and reflection of the project are essential.
Provide support for students to learn how to learn from the community.
Students are generally under-prepared to learn from the community and assimilate these lessons with course learning since the paradigms for learning in the classroom and in the “real world” have generally been thought of in separate ways…until now.
Minimize the distinction between the students' role as a classroom learner versus a community learner.
Classroom learning typically provides students with a high level of learning direction while community learning does not. These differences generally require students to assume different roles for learning, specifically as a follower in the classroom and a leader in the community. Instructors should attempt to provide students with the necessary consistency they will need to diminish the need for a different role in the new community learning context by empowering a site teacher/supervisor for the students to learn and take direction from.
Think differently about the Faculty Instructional Role.
The new and unfamiliar challenges students will face in service-learning projects require a shift from the traditional methods of transmitting information to learning facilitation and guidance as students will individually take different things from the project. The instructor should facilitate the sharing of information and experiences among classmates and guide what is learned into the context of the course objectives.
Prepare for varied student learning outcomes.
Since students will be taking different things from any given service-learning project the instructor must prepare to for less predictable student learning outcomes by being flexible in classroom discussions and assessment methods.
Design course to maximize learning from the community as a community of learners.
A main objective for community service-learning courses is to cultivate a sense of community and social responsibility. Course design should reflect this by encouraging students to share what they have learned with the rest of the class by structuring assignments with this component.
Adapted from Howard, Jeffery, PRAXIS I: A Faculty Casebook on Service-Learning (OCSL Press: Ann Arbor, 1993)
Other great resources to learn more about Service-Learning include:
Campus Compact site, community service news in higher education (national)
Michigan Campus Compact site, news, opportunities, resources, grants, awards, etc.
Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, homepage to national, peer-reviewed journal of articles written by faculty and educators on research, theory, and pedagogy.