What is service-learning?

Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with explicit learning objectives, preparation, and reflection. Students involved in service-learning are expected to not only provide direct community service but also to learn about the context in which the service is provided, the connection between service and their academic coursework/professional development, and their roles as citizens.

Service-learning is a form of experiential education that:

  • Is developed, implemented, and evaluated in collaboration with the community
  • Responds to community-identified concerns
  • Attempts to balance the service that is provided and the learning that takes place
  • Enhances the curriculum by extending learning beyond the classroom
  • Provides opportunity for critical reflection

What is the difference between community service and service-learning? 

The “learning” component in service-learning differentiates community service from service-learning. Service-learning programs provide structured preparation and reflection opportunities for participants to reflect critically on their service experience. Critical reflection represents an important addition to the service experience since it allows participants to link what they learn in academic settings to the experience of serving in the community.  Community service activities can take different forms (one time and/or ongoing service projects); however, if they do not have learning objectives, preparation, and reflection, they are not necessarily considered service-learning.