Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning.
What is the Difference Between Service-Learning and Community Service?
Community service is any unpaid activity that focuses on meeting the needs of a community or individual. Community service may be one-time or ongoing. It is typically not connected to a course. Service-learning intentionally connects service with academic course content. Service projects that take place in the real world are used to reinforce classroom learning. Service-learning instills in participants a sense of civic responsibility through structured preparation and reflection.
How is Service-Learning Different from Other Courses?
In traditional learning environments, faculty deliver course content through lectures, assignments, and tests. Service-learning incorporates an experiential component that compliments traditional teaching methods and enables students to become active participants in their education. Students participating in service-learning courses may be asked to complete between five and thirty hours of service outside of regularly scheduled class periods. Service activities may take place on or off campus. Each service-learning course is structured differently due to variations in learning objectives and needs of community partners, but all service-learning courses share several key components: preparation, action (service), and reflection.
Preparing for Service-Learning
Preparation should take place prior to the start of any service activity and should equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the community. Preparation may include an introducation to service-learning, a discussion about the community organization and population being served, and/or a research assignment about the social issue being addressed. Preparation should also include a clear and thorough explanation of the service activities that will be performed.
Reflection enables students to connect what they learn from the community with what they are taught in the classroom. Meaningful and structured reflection should take place before, during, and after the service experience. Reflection may include writing, speaking, multimedia, or other activities. Journaling and class discussion are common modes of reflection.
Students often find that they wish to continue serving the community beyond the duration of the service-learning class. There are a variety of resources at Towson University that enable students to get involved in ongoing service experiences.
"I am so happy that I ended up taking this class. Because I saw and experienced
all of these things first hand, they will stay with me. I will implement them
in my future classroom."
- TU Student Reflection on Service-Learning in Central