Service-Learning Best Practices
All service-learning courses should meet and adhere to the following best practices:
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.
As you develop your service-learning course, please keep in mind some planning logistics and service-learning best practices.
The University requires that the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement approve your community partner(s) prior to students beginning their service hours. OSLCE conducts a site visit to help gain a better understanding of what the partnership will look like moving forward. Items such as contact information, logistics, legal matters, and safety all will be covered during a site visit. Conducting site visits helps both parties determine whether the partnership will be mutually beneficial. Once the site visit is complete, the organization will be asked to sign our Community Partner Agreement [embed link].
Students are required to sign the Waiver, Release, and Indemnification Agreement prior to starting their service. OSLCE will tailor the Agreement to the service opportunities affiliated with your class. Please send signed copies of the student Agreements to OSLCE mail stop 0082 or stop by our office at the William Raggio Building room 1002. You can also send in scanned copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your course meets the objectives above, visit the course registration page to begin the Service-Learning Attribute application process!