Understanding Service-Learning

A form of experiential education in which people learn through service. In contrast to traditional service, service-learning is designed so that those who serve also benefit from the experience in a clear way.

Although people of any age can participate in service-learning, it is particularly beneficial for students. Through their service, students can:

  • Develop personal and professional skills
  • Become more aware of the community in which they live
  • Gain insight into particular issues
  • Work toward becoming more engaged citizens

Benefits of Service-Learning

Service-learning changes the very nature of a volunteer project. Everyone involved in a service-learning activity benefits.

Benefits of service-learning
  • Education about the issue on a global scale
  • Education about the issue locally, or specific to the organization or community in which the service occurs
  • Perspective on how they might apply academic and/or empirical research to real-life situations
  • Cultural and social context to the service
Campus / Organization
  • Informed and prepared student volunteers more readily think in an interdisciplinary manner
  • Informed and prepared student volunteers can be ambassadors for issues and causes on their campuses and in the larger social arena
  • Informed and prepared student volunteers are skilled, respectful volunteers who know the importance of the issue and how it relates to the community in which they are working
Service Recipients
  • A community that receives the service of knowledgeable, skilled volunteers experiences a service project that generally has impact and is sustainable
  • Informed and prepared volunteers are willing and able to look to the root causes of the problems, instead of being content to address them only on the surface

Applying Service-Learning

Service-learning works best when you are intentional about the learning goals of a service experience. Consider what volunteers should understand or learn or gain as a result of their participation in the activity. Are they:

  • ...developing specific skill sets or utilizing the knowledge gained through their college courses?
  • ...learning about a community issue?
  • ...seeking ways to deepen their service?

Let's look more closely at ways to connect service and learning with student volunteer leaders.