Service-learning is a high impact practice (HIP) that engages students in a meaningful civic service that directly relates to the course readings and lectures. Students engaged in service learning typically work with a community organization as part of the requirement for a course where they contribute 15-20 hours outside of class. Time in class is often spent completing the course objectives and reflecting upon the different projects and service experiences to which the students are exposed. The projects and community organizations vary from class to class for each service-learning course has a different focus and desired outcome for its students. It provides students with an opportunity to make a deeper connection with their course objectives and learning outcomes, while contributing a needed and helpful service to the community.
The Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-learning defines it as this: Service-learning is a method where students learn by active participation in organized service that addresses community needs and is linked to academic study through structured reflection. The community needs may include direct service to people in need, improvement of community resources, applied research, community outreach and education, or policy analysis and advocacy.
Students, who participate in STEM service-learning courses, engage in the unique combination of three essential components: academic study and reflection, practical experience, and civic engagement. As you can see in the figure above, service-learning differs from community service or internships because the student is fully immersed in all three components. Service-learning allows students to work closely with community organizations and obtain practical experience in relation to course objectives. Research shows that service-learning experiences set the student up for greater success after graduation, as the student has gained priceless knowledge and experience in their field which leads to greater confidence when applying for jobs.
If you are interested in finding out more about service learning or about you can get involved in a service learning course, contact the Advising and Resources Center at 278-4150.