What is Service-Learning?
Service-Learning is an integral part of an academic course that provides students an opportunity to connect concepts in the classroom to service experiences in the community. In a very real sense, the community becomes a text for the class. Through reflection, students gain a further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and often, an enhanced sense of personal and civic responsibility. Service-learning is a mutually beneficial relationship where students gain professional skills while providing their communities a beneficial service.
What’s the Difference between Service and Service-Learning?
Picking up trash on a riverbank is service. Studying water samples under a microscope is learning. Science students collecting and analyzing water samples, documenting their results, and presenting findings to a local pollution control agency is service-learning.
In this example, the students are providing a useful service to the community while simultaneously learning about water quality, laboratory analysis, and pollution. The students are also learning to interpret science issues to the public while practicing communications skills by speaking to residents. Finally, the students are encouraged to reflect on their personal and career interests in science, the environment, public policy or other related areas. Thus, we see that service-learning combines service with learning in practical and intentional ways to achieve a deeper, more personally relevant education.
Characteristics of Service-Learning
Although each service-learning project is unique to the individual, there are some significant similarities that may be summarized as follows:
- Involves students by helping them to determine and meet specific community needs
- Is reciprocal in nature, benefiting the student, the community and the service providers
- Promotes learning through active participation and structured reflection
- Provides an opportunities to use skills and knowledge in real-life situations
- Positive, meaningful and real to the participants, service-learning fosters a sense of caring for others
- Cooperative rather than competitive experiences
- Supports social, emotional and cognitive learning and development
- Students are given the opportunity to acquire the skills and values critical for succeeding in a professional environment
Benefits of Service-Learning
Service-learning benefits four distinct groups: students, community partners, faculty, and the University of Colorado Denver.The interaction between each group is reciprocal with all parties benefiting in unique and individualized ways.
Service Learning gives a student the opportunity to choose from a number of different experiences that allow them to build on and/or showcase their talents outside of the classroom in a real working environment.
- Students with significant service-learning experience transition better between school and the critical first three months on the job
- Active learning demonstrates the relevance and importance of academic work
- Provides career planning, work place preparedness, and resume building that employers find invaluable for the time it saves them having to train you
- Opportunity to experience diversity, build communication skills and overcome stereotypes
- Enjoy deeper connections with the community you live in and enjoy the respect that comes with being a contributing member to what goes on around you
Service-learning (SL) is recognized by hundreds of top universities around the country as an essential component to classroom-based instruction. Service-learning can be partnered with any academic discipline to achieve a deeper, more personalized educational experience.
- Professors whose students engage in SL may expect more lively class discussions and increased student participation
- Studies show that SL participants enjoy greater retention of course material
- SL improves student awareness of a variety of community and current event topics
- SL allows for more innovative approaches to classroom instruction
- SL enhances opportunities for research and publication
- Service-learning helps fulfill genuine service needs by providing volunteer-based solutions
- SL students help support and sustain organizational capacity and adds to the local workforce
- SL community partners can identify potential employees, volunteers and donors
- Community partners receive personal satisfaction from contributing to the education of students and the university.
- Community partners can strengthen their relationship with the community and university through SL initiatives
The goals of the Experiential Leaning Center are consistent with the goals of the University of Colorado Denver: To provide students with a comprehensive education that prepares them to be leaders in their chosen professions as well as productive and responsible citizens in a democratic society.
- Service-learning helps support the university mission for student learning by providing:
- Critical and engaging opportunities for students
- Workplace experience for career preparedness
- Increased development and preparation of students
- Faculty and students engage with the local community, building positive community relationships and credibility
- Creates opportunities for enhanced teaching, research, and outreach activities
- Creates opportunity to extend faculty expertise, university knowledge and resources
- Service-learning contributes to student retention