From Service-Learning Wiki
Service-learning practice typically takes the shape of the planning and implementation of a service-learning project. Project activities incorporate curriculum-related learning and many activities are typically carried out outside school premises.
Successful service-learning is a multifaceted teaching and learning process. Though each service-learning project is uniquely tailored to meet specific learning goals and community needs, several things are critical for success and should be addressed by practitioners throughout the process.
Young people are active partners in a service-learning project, with strong voices in identifying community needs and planning service activities. Youth and practitioners engage the community as a partner to identify needs and avoid making assumptions as to what is best for those being served. By building partnerships between young people and the broader community, service-learning bridges intergenerational, racial, and cultural gaps; provide young people with strong role models; and strengthen community infrastructures. Good ideas don’t materialize on their own — they require action.
Each project begins with careful planning, followed by the preparation of all participants and the implementation of the service activities. Throughout the process, reflection is the key to growth and understanding, and placing the issue at hand in a greater context.
Service-learning is best thought of as a cycle, where each step in the process leads to the next. As the diagram of the Service-Learning Cycle illustrates, the process doesn't end with the completion of the service activity. A project may be completed, but service-learning is a transformational process, where young people, practitioners, and communities continue to grow.
Every part of the cycle is rich with learning and growth opportunities, many of them happening as young people are guided through the process of identifying, planning, and carrying out service activities.
It's important for practitioners to recognize the learning potential in each phase of the process and get students reflecting so that real learning takes place.
With each step in a service-learning project, discussing three deceptively simple questions with the participants helps everyone understand what they've accomplished, learned, and need to do next:
What has happened? Take stock of what participants did, saw, and felt. Get their initial observations of what has happened.
- So What?
What's the importance of all this? Discuss what participants are thinking and feeling about the experience. Ask them what they've learned and how things have changed.
- Now What?
What should we do next? It's time to decide how best to channel this new understanding into continued action and transformation.
Models of service-learning
Service-learning project might look different depending on the participants' goals. Kerrissa Heffernan has developed six models of service-learning (some of these are more relevant for higher education students).
- Pure service-learning: These are courses that send students out into the community to serve. The courses have as their intellectual core the idea of service to communities by students, volunteers, or engaged citizens. They are not typically lodged in any one discipline.
- Discipline-based Service-Learning: In this model, students are expected to have a presence in the community throughout the semester and reflect on their experiences on a regular basis throughout the semester using course content as a basis for their analysis and understanding.
- Problem-based Service-Learning: According to this model, students (or teams of students) relate to the community much as “consultants” working with a client. Students work with community members to understand a particular community problem or need. This model presumes that the students will have some knowledge they can draw upon to make recommendations to the community or develop a solution to the problem; architecture students might design a park; business students might design a web site; or a botany student might identify non-native plants and suggest eradication methods.
- Capstone Courses: These courses are generally designed for majors and minors in a given discipline and are offered almost exclusively to students in their final year. Capstone courses ask students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their course work and combine it with relevant service work in the community. The goal of a capstone is usually either exploring a new topic or synthesizing students understanding in their discipline.
- Service Internships: Like traditional internships, these experiences are more intense than typical service-learning courses, with students working as much as 10-20 hours per week in a community setting. As in traditional internships, students are generally charged with producing a body of work that is of value to the community or site.
- Community-based Action Research: Community-based action students work closely with faculty members and community agencies to learn research methodology. Students serve as advocates for communities and provide valuable research services and reports to community agencies.
- Kerrissa Heffernan. Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. Campus Compact, 2001.