Please see the tabs below for resources on building a service-learning course, effective models, reflection strategies and a worksheet for developing your own service-learning course.
This section provides resources that can help faculty members develop a service-learning course. Please contact the Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement at 864-503-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org for individualized support.
Service-Learning courses are intertwined with community partners in several different ways. Students may work alone, in pairs, in small groups or with the entire class.
For more about Service-Learning models, see the tab on this page.
Reflection, a unique and critical component of high-quality programming, is described by Learn and Service America as an opportunity to provide "students and faculty with a way to look back on their experiences, evaluate them and apply what is learned to future experiences with new experiences to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills."
Developing a Service-Learning Course Worksheet
To aid your development of a service-learning course, we encourage you to complete the Service-Learning Course Worksheet. The purpose of the worksheet is meant to serve two purposes: to focus your thinking on the key elements of service-learning while you’re planning the course and to provide you and the office of service-learning and community engagement with an understanding of what the service-learning course will entail.
For a worksheet that helps you to develop a service-learning course, please see the "Developing a Service-Learning Course Worksheet" tab on this page.
Service-Learning Course Designation Requirements
For a course to be considered a service-learning course and to receive an SL designation, it must meet the minimum requirements and be approved by the service-learning course review committee.
Service-Learning as a component of the course should:
- Show a clear explanation of the learning outcomes and how they relate to your discipline(s) and the University mission.
- Have at least 15 hours engaged with an identified community partner.
- Have a course grade that is reflective of the amount of hours required for engagement with the community partner (for example, a higher number of hours should count for a higher percentage of the course grade).
- Describe a clear plan for how students will reflect upon their experience and quantify how the students’ reflections will be incorporated into the course grade.
Service-learning as a component of the relationship with the community should:
- Address an identified community need through participation, and not be limited to mere observation, in collaboration with an appropriate community partner.
- Deliver expected community outputs and outcomes.
- Keep “administrative tasks” to no more than 5% of the work with the community partner.
Visit the Campus Compact website for examples of syllabi by discipline.
Other Service-Learning Resources
- Campus Compact
- National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
- The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
- A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future
- Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement
- Adapted from the University of Maryland’s Faculty Service-Learning Resources and References
- Albert, G. (1994). Service-learning reader: Reflections and perspectives on service. Raleigh, NC: National Society for Experiential Education.
- Boss, J. (1994). The effect of community service work on the moral development of college
ethics students. Journal o Moral Education, 23(2), 183-198
- Bowen, G. A. (2007). Reflection methods and activities for service learning: A student manual an workbook. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
- Bradley, J. (1995). "A model for evaluating student learning in academically based service." In Troppe, M., Connecting cognition and action: Evaluation of student performance in service learning courses, Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
- Bringle, R. G., Phillips, M. A., & Hudson, M. (2004). The measure of service learning: Research scales to assess student experiences. Wash., DC: American Psychological Association.
- Cress, C. M., Collier, P. J., & Reitenauer, V. L. (eds.) (2005). Learning through serving: A student guidebook for service-learning across the disciplines. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
- Eyler, J., & Giles, Jr., D. E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Eyler, J., Giles, Jr., D. E., & Schmiede, A. (1996). A practitioner's guide to reflection in service-learning: Student voices and reflections. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.
- Giles, D. & Eyler, J. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
- Heffernan, K. (2001). Fundamentals of service-learning course construction. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
- Jacoby, B. & Associates (1996). Service learning in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Jacoby, B. (ed.) (1996). Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
- Jacoby, B. (ed.) (2003). Building partnerships for service-learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
- Jacoby, B. (ed.) (2009). Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
- Kelshaw, T., Lazarus, F., & Minier, J. (2009). Partnerships for service-learning:Impacts on communities and students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Miller, J. (1994). Linking traditional and service-learning courses: Outcome evaluations utilizing
two pedagogically distinct models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 1(1), 29-36.
- Morton, K. (1996). Issues related to integrating service-learning into the curriculum. In B.
Jacoby (Ed.), Service-learning in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Rhoads, R.A., & Howard, J.P. (Eds). (1998). Academic service-learning: A pedagogy of action and reflection. New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 73. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Stoecker, R., & Tryon, E. A. (2009). The unheard voices: Community organizations and service learning. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
- Strait, J. R., & Lima, M. (eds.) (2009). The future of service-learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
- Torres, J. (2000). Benchmarks for campus/community partnerships. Providence, RI: Campus Compact.
- Waterman, A.S. (Ed.) (1997). Service-learning: Applications from the research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Ehrlbaum and Associates.
- Zlotkowski, E. (Ed.) (1998). Successful service-learning programs: New models of excellence in higher education. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co.
The following has been adapted from the service-learning resources at Marquette University and Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Students choose from among several placements that have been pre-selected for their course. They work at these sites multiple times, usually throughout the semester. The service students provide is the conduit to their learning; they gain access to the populations or issues related to their courses. In turn, they provide needed assistance to the organizations and/or their clientele.
- Typically, the student does not have a large project that they are working on for the community partner, but they tend to have direct contact with clients or issues.
- Example: students in an honors course identify a social issue that they are interested in and work with community partners each week to address those community needs.
Working in groups, the students collaborate with the community partners to devise and implement a project.
- This model differs from the product model in that there is not a tangible item produced. The students work with the partner on a specific project and the student is not evaluated on the success or failure of the project, but rather their overall work with the community partner.
- Example: Example: students in the accounting program work with the United Way to host a VITA program site in which the students complete tax returns for low-income individuals within the local community.
Students—working alone or in groups—produce a tangible product for the community partners.
- The product usually takes the student all semester to complete and is evaluated/reviewed multiple times by the community partner and faculty member before final submission.
- Example: students in a grant writing class work with local community partners to identify and write grants that meet the agency's needs.
Students in certain courses take material that they are learning in the class and create presentations for audiences in the community. The students work in small groups and choose from among several sites, which have been set up by the faculty member. Sometimes faculty members require students to do their presentations more than once; other have them present in class before going to the community.
- This is a true presentation format. The students usually are presenting to those that the community partner serves (i.e. children at a school, community members, clients) and the presentation is educational/informational in nature.
- Example: students in health class put together presentations on germs and washing your hands. Students then go to local elementary schools to present to the children.
This model is similar to the presentation model except all the students work with the same agency and put on a fair, mini-conference or expo that includes several learning stations or short workshops. The students work in several groups to coordinate all aspects of the event.
- Typically, this is an all-day commitment from the students for the actual program and is usually held on a Saturday or during a school break (i.e. fall break, etc.)
- Example: students in the nursing program put on a Teen Health Expo in which teenagers from the local community visit the various stations during the event to learn more about healthy behaviors.
There are many ways in which faculty can facilitate reflection among students. Below are several very successful methods the office of service-learning and community engagement suggests utilizing. The following is adapted from the Service-Learning Faculty Handbook, The Service-Learning Center, Virginia Tech.
These need not be focused on the service aspect of the students’ experiences, but course concepts. Discussions offer a forum which encourage students (both traditional and service-learning) to process and relate what they are studying, doing and learning, and is an opportunity for the instructor to emphasize key concepts through the examples provided by the students.
Journals and Blogs
It is important to guide students in their journals or blogs so that they are not simply logs of events. The students should be encouraged to address objective events, subjective impressions and an analytic response, at the very least, in each journal entry. In addition, some instructors include specific guided questions which assist students to integrate their experience with particular course concepts. Journals are reviewed periodically by the faculty member during the semester. If students are utilizing a blog, the faculty member is able to leave comments and/or additional questions for the student, and can be notified via e-mail when the student responds to these questions or comments.
In the classroom, students explore a broad concept or issue by examining its impact on a local entity, incorporating the experience of the service-learning students whose service addresses the issue. For instance, students might study the availability of health care in the community in studying the local free clinic.
In contrast with traditional research papers, service-learners can incorporate examples from their service experiences with course material to demonstrate their learning. Analytical papers might include:
- a detailed description of the type of work they did, the environment and goals of the agency and/or project and a summary of their experiences.
- an evaluation of the purpose and meaning of their service and the needs met, what they learned from their experience, the strengths and limitations of those addressing the issues and needs and changes and improvements they would make in their service and the project or agency.
- an integration section in which students elaborate on how their service experience related to and /or conflicted with course concepts, affected their evaluation of or changed their assumptions about the material discussed in class, demonstrated ways in which academic learning is relevant and can be applied in the community and ways in which their experience impacted their educational and/or career goals.
Compiling an array of materials related to their service, portfolios help contextualize students’ experiences. Some service learning portfolios consist of other reflection elements, such as a journal, a paper or a presentation. They can also hold artifacts from the service project such as pictures, brochures, newspaper clippings, articles, etc. Both faculty and students can be very creative with the portfolio concept and find many ways to use it.
A wiki is a website that allows all users to edit what appears on a website. This type of website is an excellent way for students to share, post and discuss photos, news articles and resources collected and created over a semester of service-learning. Students can post upcoming events at their agencies, share their experiences at their community agency, etc. Wikis give the opportunity for anyone in the community to contribute, including professors and community partners.
Following the same format as the analytical paper, students can describe, evaluate and integrate their service with the course, while also using visual materials and responding to questions to convey their learning to the instructor and class.
Students write about their service experience in relation to assigned course readings. The questions you formulate for their responses can be open-ended or pointed in helping students think critically about the academic material in a real-world context. This activity can be particularly valuable when the readings incorporate similar issues as those being confronted by the students (in their service agencies and projects).
Via electronic or in-class forum groups, students respond in writing to discussion questions and to each other. Each student should talk about or post a response to the week’s reflection question and a response to at least one other student’s entry. Some discussion questions may be directly related to course reading, others may be more open-ended regarding their service or personal perceptions and experiences. You respond to students as appropriate and can use their entries in the forum for future discussion topics.
To aid your development of a service-learning course, we encourage you to complete the service-learning course worksheet. The purpose of the worksheet is meant to serve two purposes: to focus your thinking on the key elements of service-learning while you’re planning the course and to provide you and the Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement with a basis for discussion. The following have been adapted from the faculty service-learning resources at Beliot College and the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.
Course Planning Worksheet Help
Though the service-learning course worksheet is mostly self-explanatory, some areas can use expansion. Below are explanations of many common questions.
Choosing a model of service-learning
There are five different models of the pedagogy used by the office of service-learning and community engagement. Visit the service-learning models tab on this page for more information and examples about each of them.
What are your specific learning objectives for service learners?
Writing effective learning objectives is one of the most challenging aspects of service learning for many faculty. Yet the importance of clear and measurable objectives cannot be overstated, as they form the basis for your students’ knowledge of how to connect their service with course content as well as the basis for your assessment of the learning that occurred.
What types of community experiences will enhance learning in this course?
This refers to the types of activities you’d like to see students doing, or even activities you don’t want them doing. For example, if students in a political science class are studying how work gets done in the city and are placed in a neighborhood association, you would want them to be doing community organizing, not tutoring in the agency’s after school program. Or, if you want your students to interact with elderly people who are well rather than those who are very frail or ill, your students would need very specific placements.
How will you design assignments to make sure there is a perceived balance (in time and effort) between the service-learning and traditional learning?
Achieving this balance is extremely important. If the service learning option is seen as a "piece of cake" (e.g. if service learners are asked to write a 5 page paper in lieu of taking the final and writing a 15 page research paper), students will choose that option in droves just to get out of doing work. On the other hand, if it appears the service learners are being penalized for choosing that option, (e.g. by having to do the service, keep journals, complete research to incorporate scholarly work into their service learning paper and write a paper that’s as long or longer than the ones the traditional learners are writing) even students who might be inclined to choose service learning may feel the work is unfair and opt out.
Since service learners generally spend about 20-25 hours in their placement and another 5 or more hours in travel, it’s important to make those 20-30 hours on the left side balance out with 20-30 on the right. Keep in mind that the service time does not include time spent in writing the paper or preparing the oral report. So, don’t count paper writing time for the traditional learners either. If you’re going to assign each group a 10 page paper, ask yourself if the traditional learner will realistically spend 20-30 hours researching and gathering information. If not, can you adjust the requirement in some way to balance it out? Could you, for example, lengthen the traditional learner’s paper and/or shorten the service learner’s paper? Or, could the service learners be exempted from another requirement? Could they use their service learning to fulfill one or more additional requirements? One professor has 5 questions on her final exam, drawn from a list of 10 that she gives students. One question is worded in such a way that only service learners could answer it. It’s a little break, but sometimes that’s all it takes to achieve balance.
What academic questions will you have students consider while they are in the community?
Giving service learners specific questions or issues to consider helps to focus their thinking and reminds them about the LEARNING part of service learning. It also gives them a jump-start in making the connection between their community experiences and the course. Some faculty devise the questions themselves and present them to the students; others have the students form their own questions, in consultation with them.
Asking academic questions is one way to improve journal entries—which often become more diaries of personal experiences, thoughts and feelings than vehicles for critical thinking and integration. If students use the split-journal approach, they can write their experiences, thoughts and feelings on the left side and reflect upon these in light of questions dealing with course content on the right side. This is especially crucial if journals are to be graded.
How will you integrate service-learning into the class?
Reflection is what connects the service with the learning. Without reflection—both individual and in class—the service can easily become volunteer work rather than community-based learning.
See the reflection strategies tab for examples of reflection. (Note: If the word "reflection” seems to suggest something non-academic to you, try substituting it for a word like “integration.")
What demonstration of learning will you have service learners produce (journals, paper, oral report, etc.)?
While reflective, integrative papers are probably the most common demonstration of learning that faculty request of service learners, there are other equally effective means of evaluating learning: journaling, oral presentations, written or oral examinations and products created for agencies such as videos, brochures, newsletters, reports, etc.
Service-learning and journaling often go hand in hand, especially when the course is more theoretical than practical (e.g. a literature class vs. a writing class). Students’ journals should not be diaries, where they merely describe what they did and how they felt about it. They should be guided (perhaps by the academic questions) to reflect on the deeper issues and meanings behind what they see and do. Whether you grade the journals is up to you, but it’s a good idea to collect them at least once or twice before the end of the semester to make sure students are on the right track.
There is a value of oral presentations for service learners. They allow the other students in class to learn more about the community, whereas final papers usually only enlighten the professor. Additionally, giving presentations is a way for students to practice and develop their oral communication skills. As with other assignments, group presentations are more effective if structure is imposed. Presenters can be required to focus on, or at least include, material from the course, rather than merely describing their weekly experiences. Other groups of class members, especially traditional learners, can be assigned the task of devising questions for the presenters that will get at some deeper points for discussion.