Service-learning is a teaching method that integrates knowledge and practice by connecting the service experience to the classroom curriculum. Service learning is always intentionally designed to meet curricular objectives; it is not an end in itself. Reflection is critical to this process.
Experience and learning are not the same. While experience is a necessary condition of learning, it is not sufficient. Learning requires more than experience, and so one cannot assume that student involvement in the community automatically yields learning. Harvesting academic and/or civic learning from a community service experience requires purposeful and intentional efforts. This harvesting process is often referred to as “reflection” in the service-learning literature.
Service learning is:
A method of teaching that combines community service with curriculum-based learning, linked to academic content and standards.
About students helping to determine and meet real defined community needs.
Reciprocal in nature, benefiting both the community and students.
An effective way to encourage and foster active citizenship as part of a public education.
An approach to teaching and learning that can be used in any curriculum area as long as it is appropriate to the learning goals.
Academic service-learning is not the same as student community service or co-curricular service learning. Academic service learning makes intentional efforts to engage students in planned and purposeful learning related to the service experiences. Academic service-learning, illustrated by student community service integrated into an academic course, utilizes the service experience as a course “text” for both academic learning and civic learning.
Co-curricular service-learning, illustrated by many alternative spring break programs, is concerned with raising students’ consciousness and familiarity with issues related to various communities.