What are the benefits of service learning?

  • Research -- Fertile ground for new ideas and roles, new avenues for research and publication
  • New Perspective -- Different access to subjects, new opinions on society and its problems
  • New Colleagues and Resources
  • Better Courses -- Can improve the ability of students to the practical implications of the course materials. Can be more useful in encouraging class participation in lectures and discussions.
  • Community Applications of Scholarship

As a faculty member, what would be expected of me?

Collaboration with a community partner in designing the course, especially the SL and reflection components; participation along with students in the SL experience or, if more than one site is involved, frequent meaningful visits at times of student service; building of an on-going relationship with sites of successful SL experience; together with your community partner; sharing with the SL committee your evaluation of, and any other observations about your experience with an SL course.

How are SL courses designed?

Collaboratively. Since SL is intended to help meet needs of the sites served as well as the academic needs of the course, SL courses should be designed collaboratively, by the faculty instructor and a community partner. Both would be expected to participate in the design of both the service and the academic aspects of the course, to planning the objectives, syllabus, readings, service projects, and criteria for evaluation.

How much time should faculty expect students to devote to the service component?

The number of actual contact hours will vary according to how the service component relates to the rest of the course and the nature of the community agency's needs and conditions. Nevertheless, it should be more than symbolic or an "add-on" activity. SL courses should avoid "one-shot" events -- even if they are all-day or all-weekend project -- unless these are parts of a more sustained involvement with the community partner. If SL is to seriously challenge student perspectives, and add to student learning, then students must develop a sustained reflection on a prolonged experience.

How should faculty evaluate student participation in the SL component?

There are many ways. This too is an issue to be worked out collaboratively between faculty instructor and community partner. Because structured reflection on the experience is an essential feature of the SL course, this should be among the elements evaluated. Other methods might include an evaluation form filled out by the community partner for each student. Often, faculty members also rely on sign-up sheets on-site, or checklists of specific tasks that students must complete and have certified by the on-site supervisor.

How can appropriate service sites and community partners be found?

The best way is to explore collaboration with community or neighborhood groups you are already familiar with or, through them, learn of others. The Career Center has a person in charge of helping faculty find community partners (see "Key People to Contact"). Also please be free to talk with any of the SL committee members or faculty who are already developing courses.

Do faculty do service too?

SL is a collaboration. Faculty will usually be involved in some way with the service component of the courses they and their community partner have designed. In courses with more than one site or service time, this may have to be primarily in the form of occasional visits and moments of "rolling up one's sleeves"; in coursers working with a single site, it is best if faculty undertake a service commitment similar to that of the students, and even to work along with them, so as to be able to participate out of shared experience in the reflection process.

How much can really be accomplished during a semester?

Consider, for example, a class of twenty students, serving for two hours per week for ten weeks in the semester; that's 400 hours of service to the community in a semester. Projects can be ongoing over several semesters, but each student's involvement should achieve some degree of closure in one semester. In planning the course, both the faculty member and the community partner will have to keep in mind the need to design projects that can be brought to a clear level of closure during the course of a single semester. Community partners should also keep in mind how crucial it is to have a realistic understanding of student time, skills, other commitments, and responsibilities.

Additionally, in the interest of continuity and commitment, it is advisable whenever possible that the faculty member maintains an on-going relationship with the site(s) served, even during semesters when no students are involved there. It is always possible that some students will also want to maintain involvement on their own.