What is service-learning?
The concept of service-learning is a simple one: students will help provide a service for your agency as part of an academic course. By combining theory from an academic component and practice from real-life experience, service-learning fosters a broader understanding of not only the curriculum, but also of the students themselves and their place in the community.
A successful service-learning class includes these elements:
- The service is clearly connected to the academic component.
- The service meets a genuine community need as the agency defines that need.
- The reciprocal relationship between the university and the community agency makes you a significant and valued partner in the education of the students.
- Time for students to reflect on their experiences is an important part of the course requirements.
How service-learning differs from volunteerism or internships
A service-learning course aims to fully integrate service with learning, while volunteering has little or no connection to formal coursework. Also, service-learning examines the service experience in the context of ongoing learning, whereas internships apply what has been learned earlier.
How service-learners will benefit your agency
You can expect a predictable amount of people-hours from students working on a project with your organization. In some instances, you will get skilled service from students who will shortly be in a job using those very skills. If you have a project that requires some special skills or research, or if you have something that requires 10 to 13 weeks of concentrated effort to be completed, your agency can also benefit from partnering with a service-learning class.
How you can help with the students’ reflection of their service
Engage the students in conversations about what they’re thinking and learning, as well as help them understand the context in which they are serving. If it’s at all possible, ask to address the class when it meets on campus, help with orientation, or lead discussions. Help the students see how their service contributes to the larger mission of your agency. For example, if students at the food bank are stuffing envelopes for a mailing, explain how much their efforts contribute to the feeding of families in our community.