According to Wikipedia, service learning (or sometime written as service-learning) is an educational approach that combines learning objectives with community service in order to provide a pragmatic, progressive learning experience while meeting societal needs. This basically means that students use the knowledge they learned in the classroom, apply it to a “real world” situation or problem, gain practical, professional experience in a controlled and structured way, and reflect on they work they have completed. The National Youth Leadership Council defines service learning as a philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards. Service learning projects help students gain professional experience by putting their skills and knowledge to work by helping and building connections in their community. Service learning has a sense of reciprocity--the college educates the students, the students give their time, knowledge, and hard work to their community, and the community gives back to the people in it.
Service Learning versus Volunteering
While some similarities can be drawn between service learning and volunteering, one fundamental difference sets the two terms apart: volunteerism is voluntary. Service learning is structured and often a required element of a course or program that is designed to benefit students. Volunteering is often an individual choice, performed on one's own free time, and does not usually have a set structure or a specified outcome. Service learning usually contains structured assignments and projects at a specific location for a set amount of time.
Three integral factors of a successful service learning experience are:
This " reflection" component can also be realized through a structure written assignment after the project has been completed.
Many thanks to our library intern, Liz Waugh, for creating the original guide on this topic! Thanks, Liz!