What is Service Learning?

Service Learning combines community service with academic instruction, focusing on critical reflective thinking and personal and civic responsibility.

Service learning programs involve students in activities that address community-identified needs, while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.

Owens Community College Service Learning Strategic Planning Committee (2010)

"Service Learning is a form of experiential learning where students and faculty collaborate with community partners to develop learning opportunities. Service learning combines community service with academic instruction, focusing on critical reflective thinking and civic engagement. Students will be expected to reflect on their experience and the connection to the curriculum as well as to share their experience with other students, faculty and the community. Owens Community College seeks to contribute to the community and civically engage students."

Committee Members: Denise Shuster (Smith), Verne Walker, Amy Giordano, Deborah Ciecka, Deborah Gavlik, Elizabeth Tronolone, James Katzner, Janell Lang, Karen Schultz, Mary Harmon, Miriam Armstrong, Thomas Perin, William Ivoska, Maite Barrios, John Byers

Service Learning is an academically-based method of teaching and learning.

Service learning is NOT merely volunteering.

Service learning is NOT merely community service.

Service Learning is:

  1. Tied to the course curricula
  2. Meets a community need
  3. Includes structured critical reflection activities

Some Examples of Service Learning Activities are:

  • Volunteering your time to build homes with Habitat for Humanity is service.
  • Studying the environmental effects of solar energy is learning.
  • When architecture students partner with local contractors and design firms to create alternative construction plans for an ecologically sound office complex: that is service learning.
  • Additional examples might include: International students offering lectures to local elementary schools about his/her culture.
  • Accounting students helping community members to fill out their tax forms.
  • Computer science students developing databases for non-profit agencies.
  • Biochemistry students conducting seminars for teens on the effects of substance abuse on the body.

The Following Elements are Found in Service Learning Courses:

Service Learning fosters the development of those intangibles:

  • empathy
  • personal values
  • beliefs
  • awareness
  • self-esteem
  • self-confidence
  • social-responsibility
  • and sense of caring for others

National Service Learning Exchange

There are many types of community involvement. However, it is important to note some vital distinctions between Service Learning and these other forms of participation:

Volunteerism, where the emphasis is on the service being provided and the primary intended beneficiary is clearly the community partner/organization.

Community Service, where the primary focus is on the service being provided, as well as the benefits the service activities have on the recipients.

Internships that engage students in activities primarily for the purpose of providing students with hands-on experiences that enhance their learning or understanding of issues relevant to a particular area of study.

Field Education that provides students with co-curricular service opportunities that are related, but not fully integrated, with their formal academic studies.

Service Learning emphasizes benefits for both the student and the community organization while offering opportunities for reflection and clear connections to curricula and/or course of study. Through the service experience students might also gain valuable hands on knowledge or co-curricular participation.