Thoughtful preparation is critical to creating an impactful service-learning experience for students. After in-class preparation students should understand what is expected of them, and they should feel confident in their ability to complete the service-learning project.
Students should be fully prepared for the service-learning experience before starting their project work. Explain the project in detail, including how it relates to course study, the expected community impact, and, if relevant, possible future careers. Also include an explanation of the following:
Set clear expectations, such as:
Arrive on time and dress appropriately
Ask for help when in doubt
Call if you anticipate lateness or absence
Respect the privacy of all clients
Show respect for the agencies for whom you work
Be appropriate in attitude, manners and appearance
Information about and understanding of the population the students will be working with
Clear project description – make sure students understand the tasks and any deliverables that they are responsible for
Provide background information about, or have students research, the community organization they will be working with
One tool used for in-class service-learning preparation is a service-learning PowerPoint presentation created by the Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership.
Reflection questions prior to beginning the service-learning project
Reflection is a useful tool throughout any service-learning experience. Below are some questions for students to ponder before starting their service-learning project.
Why do you do service?
How do you define community?
Who determines what's best for the community?
What is the mission of the community organization?
How will you help achieve this mission?
The role of the syllabus in student preparation
The syllabus is the student’s first interaction with the service-learning project. The project needs to be clearly explained in how it relates to the course work. Include an explanation of the following:
Why this specific service project is part of the course
The objective and goals of the project
Connection between the service experience and course content
If available, include required dates and directions, if students will need to drive to an off-campus site
How students will reflect throughout the semester
How the service-learning project is incorporated in the student's final grade
Safety and Other Pertinent Information for Students Participating in Off-Campus Service-Learning
Student should never:
Report to the service site under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Give or loan money or other personal belongings to a client
Make promises or commitments to a client that neither the student nor the organization can keep
Give a client or organizational representative a ride in a personal vehicle unless the person is authorized for transport. Do not transport a child by yourself
Tolerate verbal exchange of a sexual nature or engage in behavior that might be perceived as sexual with a client or agency representative
Tolerate verbal exchange or engage in behavior that might be perceived as discriminating against an individual on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity
Safety precautions students should take when working in an area they are unfamiliar with:
Keep your automobile a non-attraction. Do not leave items visible in the car’s interior. Place valuable articles in the trunk prior to arrival
If you take the bus, be sure to know the route and the bus fare
Carry enough money to get home in case of a breakdown or transportation problem
Develop a community safety net of resources in your placement area
Get to know your supervisor at the agency. Ask her/him questions about the area and get suggestions on what you should do if you find yourself in trouble
Adapted from the Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education, Page 27-28, servicelearning.org --- Learn and Serve America Clearinghouse http://www.servicelearning.org/filemanager/download/HE_toolkit_with_worksheets.pdf