What is service learning?

Most of us are familiar with the term of “service learning”, or also known as “community engagement”.

Basically, service learning combines learning goals and community service in such ways that the student can grow academically and benefit the community.

Quoting the National Service Learning Clearinghouse

“It's a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience”

According to Wikipedia, service learning is

“An educational approach that combines learning objectives with community service in order to provide progressive learning”.

In other words, through service learning the student learns educational standards while experiencing real life problems.

service learning logoWhat is service learning in essence?

Service learning, or community service as many of us know, has been around for ages in our educational system.

What makes the difference here is the:

  • Rich academic frontloading
  • Assessment
  • Reflection (usually seen in project-based learning)

Inside a service learning unit the goals are predefined clearly from the beginning. And, according to The center for service learning, there are a variety of project that schools can apply.

Classes might be involved in projects that are fulfilling and more personal. One of those projects might be working with the homeless.

Involving might also be indirect. This means that students work on more broad tasks such as the environment, that is a local problem.

The service learning unit can also include public support that centers the attention on educating others about the issues.

A couple of ideas for a service learning unit:

  1. Building a house for humanity
  2. Donating old clothes
  3. Volunteering at soup kitchen
  4. Donating valuables old eyeglasses
  5. Donate non-perishable food
  6. Donation of blankets to a homeless shelter

Qualities of service learning

There are a total of 6 qualities you will gain from service learning:

  1. Integrative
  2. Reflective
  3. Contextualized
  4. Strength based
  5. Reciprocal
  6. Lifelong

The integrative goes further than the classroom learning or campus volunteering.  Service learning integrates class learning objectives with community perspective and priorities. This way, students will demonstrate success academically as well  as interpesonally.

The reflection is a core concept when it comes to the service learning system. The reflection can enable the students to examine the

  • Beliefs
  • Values
  • Opinions
  • Judgement
  • Practices

to a deeper level.

The service-learning is mainly focused on the strength of the community, and honors the community members who strengthen it. The community is never built from the outside, only from the inside. A strong community focuses mainly on the capacity and expertise that exists in every community.

Also, the service learning is reciprocal because it benefits in a two way street. The community benefits from the student who helps, while the student benefits from learning from the community.

Service learning is one of those things that stick with you all your life. Once you start helping the community and learn while doing it, you can't stop that easily.

The meaning of a service-learning unit

service learning impactSometimes, it's not enough just to help the others.

Deep learning is more about learning to tackle rigorous standards simultaneously with the service. A strategy that might help is splitting your unit into four main parts:

  1. Pre-reflection
  2. Research
  3. Presentation
  4. Reflection

This way, it's better to keep track and gain more.

  • Pre-reflection is basically your group brainstorming on ideas how to help the community. It's amazing how many ideas can float around just by talking about them. What makes brainstorming effective is that it helps develop new ideas from old ones.
  • Research is responsible for gathering data wisely and efficiently. This can be done via many techniques like online polls or person-to-person surveys. After gathering data, you should be creating graphs to explain their data. Tools like Piktochart might help.
  • Presentation is the part when you present your findings to either the school, each other or the stakeholders. You can always develop posters promoting your call to action, or develop a website with Weebly.
  • Reflection is the final part. You will be asked on what you've gained from this journey you took. You might be asked questions like:
    • What did you learn about the topic?
    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • Do you think differently now?

Evaluating service learning

Another feature of service learning that makes it unique is that many stakeholder evaluate students.

The evaluation might come either from the community, the teach or yourself.

The community partners might get a say in all this and evaluate the students. Also, they might even get a voice in developing the criteria for assessing students.

The teacher, along with evaluating the content might also assess you on how well you wrote or crafted the graph.

Self-evaluation is also one of the evaluations that tends to be a form of reflection. You might also assist in developing the rubric that the stakeholders use to evaluate you.

So, in conclusion the service learning is a form of leveraging from the need to do something good to the world, as well as learning on the way. It's a form of teaching empathy, literacy, compassion and composition.