Information For

Service Learning

What Is Service Learning?

Community Service Learning (CSL) is a structured learning experience within an academic course. The service work is directed toward the achievement of course learning objectives and also toward making meaningful contributions to the areas of need identified by the community being served.

The service activity is used to clarify, illustrate, challenge, or stimulate additional thought about the topics covered in the classroom. Structured written and/or oral reflection ties the service experiences to the academic content of the course and also provides students with the opportunity to develop or strengthen their awareness of the relationship between the course material and societal needs, a service ethic, and their role as citizens.

The community service could take on a variety of forms. Examples include the following:

  • Direct service to people in need
  • Policy analysis
  • Community outreach and education
  • Program assessment and improvement of community resources
  • Organization for action on social, health, safety, or environmental issues
  • Applied research

The service activity should correspond with and must be appropriate to the student's level of academic preparation. Activities should take place only at sites approved by the instructor and under contract with the University risk management procedures. Faculty who feel that special circumstances warrant using placements sites other than those on the Civic Engagement database must fill out the appropriate paperwork, available through the Office of Civic Engagement.

A Community Service Learning course includes:

  • Explicit learning objectives and explanation in the syllabus of the role of the service experience in attaining those objectives;
  • Preparation in class for the service activity to increase the student's understanding of the community context that the student will be entering, needs, and issues they may encounter, standards of conduct expected of them, etc.;
  • Ongoing, structured, critical reflection with regular instructor feedback that ties the community experience with the academic course content, thus enhancing both; and
  • Evaluation that is based on the quality of the student's learning - not just the completion of certain hours of service - and a grading weight that is proportionate to the community service learning component of the course.

The time allotted to the community service learning portion of the course includes the preparation and analysis time and the time for written and oral reflection as well as the actual time spent in the community. While, typically, the largest portion of time in community service learning would be in the service activity, time allotted for ongoing critical reflection should be substantial as well.

The criterion used to determine whether the community service learning makes enough of a contribution to the achievement of course objective for the course to qualify for designation as a Community Service Learning course is that at least 15% of the student's grades will be based on the community service learning portion of the course. It is suggested that the service consists of at least 20 hours of direct, academically-relevant community service.

All courses and/or sections meeting the definition above must be identified as such in the class schedule so that students can enroll in courses knowing in advance of this expectation.

If you are looking for additional resources for service learning, or need to find a placement for your service learning course, click the appropriate link below: