Service-learning courses at Towson University should meet the following criteria:
I. Meaningful Connection to Discipline
The service-learning experience is explicitly related to course content and discipline. Students are exposed to an array of diverse perspectives that exist beyond the confines of the university. A service-learning course should include a minimum of 15 hours of service to the community partner (CP).
Faculty will prepare students for the service-learning experience. This preparation may include research on the mission of the community partner and/or the population to be served. Preparation will include a thorough explanation, also included in the syllabus, of service-learning expectations and requirements. In-class preparation will include discussion of the value of the service-learning experience.
III. Partnership and Reciprocity
The service project is mutually beneficial to the University and community partner as it meets an existing need for the CP and enhances student learning. The faculty member and CP agree upon project details and timelines prior to the start of the course. There should be a written agreement between the university and CP with course and project specific information, including project goals and any deliverables expected of students. The faculty member and CP should be in continuous contact throughout the semester to ensure that the needs of both parties are being met.
Meaningful and structured student reflection occurs throughout the service-learning experience. Through reflection students demonstrate an understanding of the connection between course content and the service-learning experience. Reflections may include journaling, discussions, presentations, periodic logs, and/or other forms as stipulated by the faculty member.
V. Assessment and Evaluation
Evaluation of the service project is included in the project plan and is completed by the CP, faculty member and students in order to determine the project’s effectiveness in meeting stated goals. Community partners also assess student performance based on measures agreed upon with the faculty member. This assessment should be reflected in the grading matrix. Some form of evaluation should occur halfway through the project to allow time for improvements if necessary. Evaluations should be reviewed to make future improvements in the service-learning experience.
These criteria were approved by the University's Service-Learning Subcommittee in December 2008 and updated in March 2009.