More About Service Learning
What is Service-Learning?
Definitions vary; at its heart, however, service-learning is a form of experiential learning that employs service as its modus operandi.
Service-learning pedagogies are used by teachers in colleges and universities as well as in K-12 schools to enhance traditional modes of learning, actively engage students in their own educations through experiential learning in course-relevant contexts, and foster lifelong connections between students, their communities, and the world outside the classroom (1)
Some definitions of Service-Learning:
“Service-learning means a method under which students learn and develop through thoughtfully-organized service that: is conducted in and meets the needs of a community and is coordinated with an institution of higher education, and with the community; helps foster civic responsibility; is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students enrolled; and includes structured time for students to reflect on the service experience.” (2)
“Service-learning is the various pedagogies that link community service and academic study so that each strengthens the other. The basic theory of service-learning is Dewey's: the interaction of knowledge and skills with experience is key to learning. Students learn best not by reading the Great Books in a closed room but by opening the doors and windows of experience. Learning starts with a problem and continues with the application of increasingly complex ideas and increasingly sophisticated skills to increasingly complicated problems." (3)
There are three basic components to effective service-learning:
- The first is sufficient preparation, which includes setting objectives for skills to be learned or issues to consider, and includes planning projects so they contribute to learning at the same time work gets done.
- The second component is simply performing service.
- Third, the participant attempts to analyze the experience and draw lessons, through such means as discussion with others and reflection on the work.
Some service-learning occurs just from doing the work:
After a month working alongside police, a participant has surely learned some important lessons about how to increase public safety, and something about what it means to be a good citizen. However, programs that encourage active learning from service experience may have an even greater impact.
- Robin Crews, "What is Service-Learning?" (pp.1) in University of Colorado at Boulder Service-Learning Handbook. First Edition, April 1995.
- Used by the forthcoming American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Series: Service-Learning in the Disciplines, entitled:Writing the Community: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in...(and condensed from the Corporation for National Service).
- Thomas Ehrlich, "Foreword" (pp.xi-xii) in Barbara Jacoby and Associates, Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 1996.
From “Communications for a Sustainable Future” website