Introduction

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Service learning offers significant ways for students, faculty, and community members to move together with focused thought and action toward a common purpose. Service learning benefits all involved. Students benefit academically and socially. They develop important skills in the field and may in turn come to appreciate the importance of civic involvement and community participation. The role of the faculty member is one of mentor and facilitator, while students develop into confident, self-directed learners who are making a meaningful impact in their community.

 
What is Service Learning?

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Service learning is a teaching method that combines academic coursework with the application of institutional resources (e.g., knowledge and expertise of students, faculty and staff, political position, buildings and land) to address challenges facing communities through collaboration with these communities. This pedagogy focuses on critical, reflective thinking to develop students’ academic skills, sense of civic responsibility, and commitment to the community.

Academic Study

Service learning is bound to academic coursework through its connection to a course’s specific learning goals and objectives. Through community engagement, students apply their academic knowledge and critical thinking skills. Academic credit is given for the learning that takes place—not simply the completion of volunteering hours.

Community Engagement

Service learning engages students in community engagement through a collaborative partnership between the university and the community. Students’ engagement experience addresses needs identified by the community itself. Community partners (i.e. organizations with which students serve) are considered co-educators in the learning process of students.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of service learning as it facilitates connections between community engagement experiences and course content. The reflection process—whether through class discussions, reflection journals, or feedback from instructors—helps students make meaning of their community engagement experience and draw connections to course learning goals while developing critical thinking skills, communication skills, leadership, a sense of civic responsibility, and multicultural understanding (Rama & Battistoni, 2001).

Source: Service-Learning Toolkit: A Guide for MSU Faculty and Instructors. (2015, November 19). Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. (pp. 1-2). Available under a: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Internation License.

Retrieved from: servicelearning.msu.edu/upload/service-learning-toolkit.pdf

 
Motivation for Engagement

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Faculty choose to utilize service learning in their classes for a number of reasons. In a study of faculty nominated for a prestigious service learning award, O’Meara (2008, p. 14) found faculty motivation for community engagement fell into seven areas. These types of motivation, listed in order of prevalence, include:

  1. To facilitate student learning and growth
    Faculty reference teaching well and facilitating learning as the primary reason for using service-learning. Faculty cited service learning as a “pedagogy for deepening understanding of content in ‘real-world settings,’ enhancing critical thinking, career development, and the development of critical consciousness” (p. 15).
  2. To achieve disciplinary goals
    When service learning aligns with their academic discipline, faculty are motivated to employ the teaching method in the classroom. For some faculty, they see service learning as a means of passing on the knowledge, skills, and values of their discipline.
  3. Personal commitments to specific social issues, places, and people
    Faculty identify commitment to specific social issues (e.g. public health, education, urban planning, etc.), geographic locations, and community partner organizations and/or individuals as reasons to teach service-learning.
  4. Personal/professional identity
    Faculty connect their personal identity and experience (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic class, etc.) to their rationale for employing service learning in the classroom.
  5. Pursuit of rigorous scholarship and learning
    Research found that faculty involved in community engagement do so to be at the forefront and cutting edge of their academic discipline.
  6. A desire for collaboration, relationships, partners, and public-making
    For some faculty, service learning can be a way of building connections with colleagues, community members, and students. In the world of academics, which can be isolating at times, service learning can also be motivating in that it makes faculty feel more connected and in solidarity with other like-minded people.
  7. Institutional type and mission, appointment type, and/or an enabling reward system and culture for community engagement
    Institutions with pre-existing missions oriented towards community engagement build a culture where service learning is motivating. The same applies to a reward system that recognizes faculty engagement. Further, faculty who have engagement explicitly outlined in the nature of their appointments are motivated towards community engagement as well.

Source: Service-Learning Toolkit: A Guide for MSU Faculty and Instructors. (2015, November 19). Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. (pp. 2-3). Available under a: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Internation License.

Retrieved from: servicelearning.msu.edu/upload/service-learning-toolkit.pdf

 
Benefits

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Students

  • Increase their understanding of course material
  • Improve their professional skills like problem solving, communication, critical thinking, reflection, and teamwork
  • Learn more about cultures different from their own
  • Critically reflect on their own values and beliefs
  • Understand both assets and needs in communities
  • Apply what they learn in class to a real-world setting
  • Meet others who enjoy serving the community and build personal networks
  • Gain hands-on experience in a community setting
  • Build professional connections useful for future internships or jobs

Faculty

Faculty who instruct service learning courses also benefit from adopting service learning as a teaching pedagogy. Through service-learning, faculty:

  • Engage students with different learning styles
  • Promote students’ active learning
  • Encourage interactive teaching methods where students and community partners
  • Contribute to the learning process
  • Gain new opportunities to further their scholarship
  • Attract civic-minded students to their course
  • Expand networking opportunities with other engaged faculty in various disciplines

Community Partners

Community partners who engage service learning students benefit when service learning is organized to respond to community needs, as indicated by the community. Through service learning community partners:

  • Gain new energy and assistance to broaden delivery of existing services or to create new services
  • Participate in the teaching and learning process
  • Inject energy, enthusiasm, and new perspectives into their organization’s work
  • Open doors to new connections and partnerships with colleges and universities

Adapted from the following resources:

“Benefits of Service-Learning” by the University of Minnesota Community Service-Learning Center, n.d., retrieved from http://www.servicelearning.umn.edu/info/benefits.html
Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers, and Lessons Learned (p. 12) by B. Jacoby, 2015, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Copyright 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Research on Benefits

For faculty interested in diving into service-learning research,there are a few points to consider. Much of the research on the impact of service-learning is focused on student learning outcomes (Eyler & Giles, 2001). Seminal pieces in the benefits of service-learning research include:

    • Eyler, J., & Giles Jr, D. E. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
    • Eyler, J. S., Giles, Jr. D. E., Stenson, C. M., & Gray, C. J. (2001). At a Glance: What we know about the effects of service-learning on college students, faculty, institutions and communities, 1993-2000 (3rd ed.). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.

One notable observation is that foundational research on the benefits of service learning were conducted in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Since then, studies have explored the impact of service learning in specific courses or disciplines. Faculty interested in teaching service-learning are encouraged to search publications within their field of expertise, which often highlight strategies for implementation that are practical for their discipline.
Few published studies investigate community impact from the perspective of community partners (Sandy & Holland, 2006). A handful of researchers are beginning to explore benefits and challenges of community partners.

Source: Service-Learning Toolkit: A Guide for MSU Faculty and Instructors. (2015, November 19). Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. (pp. 6-8). Available under a: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Internation License. Retrieved from: http://servicelearning.msu.edu/upload/service-learning-toolkit.pdf

 
 
Resources and References

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“Benefits of Service-Learning” by the University of Minnesota Community Service-Learning Center, n.d., retrieved from http://www.servicelearning.umn.edu/info/benefits.html

Honnet, E.P. & Poulsen, S.J. (1989). Principles of good practice for combining service and learning (Wingspread special report). Racine, WI: Johnson Foundation.

Howard, J. (Ed.). (2001). Principles of good practice for service-learning pedagogy. In Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Service-Learning Course Design Workbook (pp. 16-19).

Kiely, R. (2004). A chameleon with a complex: Searching for transformation in international service learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 10(2), 5-20.

Kiely, R. (2005). A transformative learning model for service-learning: A longitudinal case study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 12(1), 5-22.

Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. In J. Mezirow (Ed.), Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning (pp. 1-20). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

O’Meara, K. (2008). Motivation for faculty community engagement: Learning from exemplars. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 12(1), 7-9.

Service-Learning Toolkit: A Guide for MSU Faculty and Instructors. (2015, November 19). Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Available under a: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Internation License. Retrieved from: servicelearning.msu.edu/upload/service-learning-toolkit.pdf

Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers, and Lessons Learned (p. 12) by B. Jacoby, 2015, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Copyright 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Magna Campus Video and Supplemental Materials Resource

How Can I Create an Online Service Learning Project?

Alternatively:

  1. Log on to UM Learn
  2. Under My Courses, select All Roles under Role, and All under Term.
  3. Scroll down to Development Courses and select The Centre – Magna Campus Resources
  4. Select Magna Campus > Open Menu > Seminar Libraries > 20-Minute Mentors
  5. In the search box, type in “service learning
  6. Tap on “How Can I Create an Online Service Learning Project?”

or

Managing Legal Risks of Service Learning/Civic Engagement

Alternatively:

  1. Log on to UM Learn
  2. Under My Courses, select All Roles under Role, and All under Term.
  3. Scroll down to Development Courses and select The Centre – Magna Campus Resources
  4. Select Magna Campus > Open Menu > Seminar Libraries > Online Seminars
  5. In the search box, type in “service learning

Tap on “Managing Legal Risks of Service Learning/Civic Engagement”