Frequently Asked Questions
Maybe. Service-learning is part of a range of community-engaged pedagogies. These pedagogies recognize a common set of features to achieve the outcomes and benefits of community-based teaching and learning. At IU Bloomington, service-learning has described the full range of community-engaged teaching and learning. The Service-Learning Program uses a model of Community-Engaged Learning which describes a developmental path for integrating community-based teaching and learning into curricular activities. Contact Michael Valliant to learn more about this model.
Without a doubt, a service-learning class does require extra time to plan, meet with your community partner(s), work out logistics, orient students toward the service, visit the site(s), and structure regular reflection and evaluation. There are, however, ways to minimize the amount of time—by building on community connections you already have, incorporating the service into your research agenda, condensing student projects into teams, working with a single community
However you evaluate, grading should be based on learning from the service, not on the service itself. Many instructors don’t change their evaluation methods, but assume that the service heightens student learning on traditional measures, and that monitoring attendance is all that’s necessary. A well integrated course will include mechanisms for understanding how service contributes to or enhances learning course content. You might assign pre- and post-service reflections, scaffolded reflections, or specific papers that reflect on and incorporate the service experience. These could be graded for analysis, critical thinking, civic learning and engagement, and other typical criteria.
When a certain pedagogical method serves the learning objectives of the class, instructors require it. Students are rarely asked to “volunteer” to write a paper or take a test. It is important that you let the students know the distinction between volunteering and service (Furco, 1996). In this case, service is not voluntary; it is required as a text – a text of real life experience – for the course. You should convey directly and clearly to your students how the service enhances the subject matter. Students will learn more and be less likely to complain about the extra time required if they understand the relevance of service to course material.
Share up front with your students as much information as possible about the organization and what’s expected. You and your community partner should have tasks and expectations clearly defined. Approach service partnerships as you would when selecting other course content by understanding the community need, service opportunities and how they complement course content, and other expectations of the community partner. Creating a statement of expectations or scope of work can be very helpful in managing the service. Any work you do up front can really ease problems down the road. Ongoing communication is essential to a successful service-learning collaboration. Keeping in close contact with the community partner representatives and your students throughout the semester about the service-learning experience and your students’ performance will help prevent potential problems as the semester progresses.
You’re still in charge of how class time is used. Students can reflect on the experience outside of class through journals, response papers, and more formal papers. However, it is most effective to discuss in class some experiences, problems, and patterns that emerge from the service. And there is evidence that "thoroughly integrate[d] service and academic learning through continuous reflection promote[s] development of the knowledge, skills, and cognitive capacities necessary for students to deal effectively with the complex social issues that challenge citizens." (Eyler, 2002)
That’s something only you can answer. If you are interested in students’ intellectual development and personal growth, this kind of teaching is really wonderful. Because a sizable proportion of students learn best through experience, working with community-based education can enhance your teaching effectiveness. Many instructors feel that service-learning connects them more closely to the community in which they live and that they, themselves, learn from this experience.
When students serve in a community-based organization, they should be covered as volunteers for that agency. Indiana University’s insurance does not cover service-learning off campus, so students need to be informed of potential risks before they volunteer. Have them sign an informed consent form indicating they are aware of risks and will not hold the university liable in the case of an accident. Further information is available from the Service-Learning Program staff and the Office of Risk Management.
Service-learning combines academic theory with practical real-life experience in a way that provides a broader and deeper understanding of course content and fosters civic engagement. What this means is that students in a service-learning course apply the knowledge and skills they are learning in the classroom to serve a genuine community need. Students may provide a direct service through volunteering or complete a project in the classroom that benefits a community agency, organization, or small local business. In all cases, the service directly relates to course content. Check out a list of the current semester's service-learning courses in the Office of the Registrar's Special Course Listings (choose the current semester and then Other Special Course Offerings).
The tangible benefits include enhanced learning through applied experience and reflection, increased social awareness and civic engagement, and strengthened reciprocal connections with the local community or area served. Students may also test a potential career choice or identify new avenues and opportunities. Service-learning offers a form of experience that may be an asset in future endeavors and can be included on a résumé.
Ask your department chair or advisor about current service-learning courses being offered. In addition, the Office of the Registrar provides a listing of service-learning (S-L) designated courses. (Choose the current semester and then Other Special Course Offerings.) Sometimes different sections of the one course may have a service-learning component. This distinction should be listed when searching through the course listings.
In service-learning, credit is given for the learning, just as in every other class. The service is built into the course curriculum just like attendance, assignments, or exams.
Like any other class, expectations should be laid out at the beginning of the semester. Some service-learning courses may require a commitment of a couple of extra hours a week spent providing service at a community agency or working on a project. Sometimes, students may be required to walk, bike, take public transportation, or drive to an off-campus location. Students can use the Bloomington Transit system for free with their student ID.
Please check out the Student Involvement & Leadership Center Community Engagement page to see the resources and funding available to eligible students and projects. Also, see these sources that provide grants and awards to service-learning students.
The Service-Learning Program hosts a spring campus conference on Community-Engaged Learning featuring curricular service activities by faculty and staff. We are exploring how to provide space for student participation. If were a student in the academic year prior to the conference and are doing exceptional service-learning work, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experiences and explore possible presentations.
Held in late-winter or early-spring, the Indiana Campus Compact Service Engagement Summit is a statewide venue for sharing community engaged service work welcoming of student work and presentations. On campus, IU Corps is another place to explore opportunities for sharing service work.
Students can visit the Student Involvement & Leadership Center website for a comprehensive listing of student organizations, including those with a civic engagement focus, and resources for engagement. IU Corps can be a starting point for students who want to learn about service and volunteer options. Visit the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network for a comprehensive listing of agencies and volunteer opportunities in Monroe County.
From Community Partners
If you are a nonprofit or public agency, or a private-sector agency with an project serving the greater public, and if your work serves the Monroe County community, then you are qualified to participate in service-learning. While some agencies serve those outside Monroe County, a location within the county makes it simpler to engage with students for project and service management.
Additionally, needs that fit service-learning well require sustained contact, with each student contributing roughly 20 hours of service at your agency or 20 hours of work on their final project to benefit your agency. Agencies should be prepared to sustain a relationship with the students and instructor of a course for the duration of the semester in which the partnership takes place.
IU Corps can be another point for learning about opportunities to partner with campus . IU Corps is a network of Indiana University students, faculty, and staff interested in collaborating with on- and off-campus groups to address community-identified needs locally and beyond.
Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs) are positioned in agencies that have multiple semesters of experience with service-learning, having hosted students from more than one course. The agencies have identified their interest in hosting an ACE and have a plan for growing or maintaining service-learning for at least the four year commitment of their ACE. There is annual fluctuation in where ACEs are housed due to the changing needs of agencies and the community at large, as well as the number of new scholarship spots we are granted through the Cox Scholars Program. These factors determine if growth to new agencies is possible each year.
While there is no set formula for how to receive an ACE, each of our ACE partner agencies has found a niche for service-learning in their agency, and the addition of service-learning adds to their ability to meet their mission and programming goals. The agencies also plan to have at least one service-learning partnership per semester and had previous experience with service-learning, building relationships with an instructor or course, prior to receiving an ACE.
No, you do not. While nearly 30 agencies in our community host Advocates for Community Engagement (ACEs), significantly more agencies participate in service-learning.
No, and you shouldn't. Service-learners should be plugging into your agency to fit needs that predate the partnership. Remember: the goal of service-learning is mutually beneficial partnership. Do you have a need that your team can't get to? Have a new strategic plan you'd like support getting put into action? Do you have recurring volunteer shifts you'd like consistently filled? These are excellent starting points for service-learning. Partnerships are best created when you come in with a clear idea of how service-learners would plug into your work. This prevents agencies from simply signing onto instructors' visions for their students and ensures you get work done that advances your mission.
That's up to you. Service-learning strives for equitable partnerships, with the community partner serving as an equal voice and a co-educator for students. However, we also realize that with limited staff and resources, your ability to engage with the course may be limited--particularly at certain times of year. For that reason, the scale and scope of your engagement with service-learners can adapt to fit the need you have identified and the culture and governance of your agency. The SLP staff can help you identify the role you'd like to play in a service-learning partnership, and this can be more explicitly laid out at the start of the partnership when working with faculty to develop your Statement of Expectations.