Many faculty tend to have the same questions so you are not alone! Here are some typical questions we here. If there are more questions that we can answer for you, please let us know.
Service-learning is an academic exercise designed to promote students’ learning and civic engagement through a combination of academic study, meaningful community service, and reflective thinking.
Reflection is critical thinking. Structured reflection activities provide a means through which the relationship between service and course content can be studied and interpreted. In addition, reflection can encourage students to appreciate their future roles as socially responsible and civically engaged professionals. Reflection activities range from journal writing and small group discussion with the instructor to preparing class and community presentations. More information about reflection and some sample reflection activities is available in the Reflection section of this website.
Service-learning, like community service, seeks to make a valuable contribution to the community. Unlike community service, however, service-learning is designed to promote the curricular goals of a specified course through the application of classroom learning in service settings. Community service that is not integrated into the curriculum is not service-learning; it is simply service.
Yes, service-learning is both possible and beneficial for all fields of study. There are over 300 syllabi on the Campus Compact website that can be viewed as examples from across a variety of disciplines.
While logistics will be more complicated in larger classes, service-learning can be used in courses of any size. Teaching assistants who are familiar with service-learning are be helpful for maintaining the quality of experience in larger classes.
Service-learning should be integrated throughout the course, in learning objectives, course readings, homework reflection assignments, and class discussions. Students will have a less meaningful experience if their service is a secondary component to the course, as opposed to being fully integrated. The BCLS staff members are also available for advice, planning, orientation, coordination, and anything else you might need.
Faculty can establish partnerships with specific community organizations or allow students to select a service site of their own. The BCLS offers one-on-one consultations where we work with students to find service opportunities that match their interests with both the course requirements and the needs of the community organization. If your students would like assistance, they are welcome to contact us at 352-294-1671, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by our office in 2015 J. Wayne Reitz Union.
Yes, for multiple reasons. Having a required number of hours ensures that students have enough time to fulfill the learning objectives of the volunteer experience. A time requirement also allows community organizations to plan tasks ahead of time to both meet the needs of the organization and the needs of the student. This requirement is flexible. However, the average requirement for students is 30 labor hours over the course of semester. Organizing faculty can increase or decrease this number.
Remind students that communications with community partners should be professional, regardless of how frustrated they become. Students may benefit from a reminder of email and phone call etiquette and to leave contact information for the organization to follow up with the student.
When contacting organizations, have students mention that they looking to partner with the organization as part of a course assignment. This reminder of the academic component will help the organization realize that the student is working on an academic timeline and will need to begin working earlier than other volunteers.
Students should firsts approach their supervisor at the organization. The student may wish to start the conversation with a positive approach by stating why they selected the organization and why they are interested in continuing their involvement. The student can then ask to revisit the position description and the academic requirements to find a solution that meets the needs and objectives for both the student and the organization.
If the student is not able to resolve the situation on their own, the instructor will need to either talk with the organization or help the student find another service site.
Service-learning can be integrated into any course, from elementary school through graduate school, when class assignments and tasks assigned at service sites are adjusted to meet the students skill set and level of development.
While students are busy and often have multiple involvements and responsibilities, they do have time to participate in a service-learning course. Offering multiple service opportunities that fit a variety of schedules allows students to find an option that works for their schedule. In addition to the established learning objectives of the course, students in service-learning courses strengthen their time management skills and may find that they want to continue their service involvement after the course is done.
The best strategies will be clarity in the course-requirements and personal encouragement to complete their labor hours on a timely basis.
Common challenges include communications with organizations and completing hours by the deadline. Students may also become dissatisfied with the work they’re completing or not may not see the connections to the course. Any concerns should be addressed promptly to ensure that students have enough time to complete the assignment, and that they maintain a positive attitude towards their experience and the course.
Faculty may face the following challenges in their service-learning course.
- How to reduce other parts of the course workload to accommodate service-learning
- How to create new assignments to facilitate students’ reflections on what they learned in the community
- How to assess students’ performance on those assignments
- How to build flexibility into the curriculum, so students can discuss and explore unexpected experiences in the community
- How to answer students’ service-learning questions
As a reminder, our office is here to offer support. Please contact us, and we would be happy to help trouble-shoot issues.
Some of the goals of service-learning are to foster an attitude of civic responsibility among students and create connections between the university and community at large. Students trained for critical reflection in a local setting and strong relationships with the community could have positive political and economic outcomes.