How is service-learning different from community service and volunteer work?

Service-learning differs from other forms of community service or volunteer work because the education of students always sits at its core. Students are actively participating in the process of understanding, integrating, and applying knowledge from various subject areas as they work to improve their communities. The question “why am I learning this?” disappears as students help older people or register voters or work to restore a fragile ecosystem and see what they have learned in action.

How can I get my students interested in service-learning?

An important aspect of service-learning is student participation, not only in the actual activity, but in the planning and suggestion phase. When students have a voice in choosing a service project, they are intrinsically more vested emotionally and intellectually. Since projects often utilize student strengths and talents that aren’t always apparent in day to day lessons, service- learning can motivate students to impressive accomplishments both in and out of the classroom. Teachers use this method to do more than meet educational needs and fulfill academic standards but also as a way to excite students and build on their skills and talents.

Is service-learning different from internships?

Internships MAY be designated as service-learning at UNCG. Service-learning internships are different from purely pre-professional internships in that the aim of service-learning is to provide meaningful service experiences in which students connect to academic content through reflection – and through which community partners/members receive significant service that contributes to their mission. Service-learning includes the following:

  • Explicit connections between the service and course objectives (course credit is given for learning, not service)
  • Students engaged in activities which meet real community needs and/or goals
  • Structured opportunities for students to critically reflect before, during and after their service experience regarding 1) personal development (e.g, personal and professional preferences), 2) civic engagement (e.g., their role and impact of their discipline on society), and 3) the academic content of the course.
  • Genuine, active and sustained organizational commitment on the part of the college and the community
  • Necessary training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition, and evaluation to meet service and learning goals

Won’t service-learning just mean more work for me?

Initially, as you are learning to use service-learning as a teaching method and finding ways to integrate it into your curriculum, you may find that it takes a little more time than regular syllabus planning. However, as you become more adept and comfortable with the practice, you’ll start to see curricular connections and the possibilities for projects and community partnerships much more easily. More than likely, you will find that your own levels of engagement and enthusiasm reflect that of the students you work with and guide through service-learning. The academic results and accomplishments in the community reward the effort for everyone involved.

Are there different kinds or categories of service?

Service can take many forms. Usually, though, the “service” in service-learning can be classified as direct service, indirect service, advocacy, or research.