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Service-Learning Best Practices

center for molecular medicine

Does your course meet service-learning best practices?

You are meeting service-learning best practices if:

1.     Service-Learning is integrated into the course syllabus and related to the course objectives and learning goals.

Clearly explain or demonstrate how service enhances this course and how service relates to the course objectives and learning goals.  This may also include course expectations on service requirements (hours, time log, percentage of grade, etc.) for students and how the service experience will be graded. Although service hour requirements will vary for a course, a minimum of 1 hour per week and typically 2-3 hours a week is common, resulting in a range of 15- 20 hrs. of student service for the semester.

2.     The service placements are both meaningful to the student and related to the course, and the service meets an identified community need or serves the public good.

Clearly explain or demonstrate how the service is meaningfully connected to the course and the community. A key criteria of service-learning, one that distinguishes it from other forms of experiential learning, is that the service experience also meets a community identified need. Service experiences ought to be designed to benefit the community partner or agency in addressing a community need and not designed strictly for student learning benefits. 

3.     Critical reflection is a part of the student's service experience and is considered a part of the course.

Clearly explain or demonstrate how critical reflection will be a part of the overall learning experience in your course.  Reflection can be conducted a variety of ways and it can be either formal or informal.  Following best practices, we encourage the 4 C's of reflection, "continuous, connected, challenging and contextualized" (Eyler, Giles and Schmiede, 1996). In service-learning, the learning usually occurs during the reflection process where students can then begin to see and understand the service in a larger context of social justice and civic learning, rather than the context of charity (Kendall 1990).

4.     Plans for assessment and evaluation are incorporated into the service-learning course.

As a component of the course, and in partnership with OSLCE, service-learning designated courses should provide some aspect of assessment and evaluation of the service experience.  Assessment and evaluation will be determined by the course and the service-learning experience but could include, pre/post tests to gauge student learning and development, evaluation of the service experience and placement and course evaluations of the service elements.  Faculty members are welcome to use OSLCE student pre/post tests and evaluation forms as contained on our webpage, or create their own assessments.

The assessment and evaluation is intended to be beneficial for all involved in the service experience.  Data may also be provided to the community partner and/or serve for campus assessment regarding impact and tracking.  This data also encourages faculty to collect data that can be used for either publications or reporting evaluation measures for tenure and promotion.

If you think your course meets the objectives above, visit our course designation page to view the course designation process!

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