Service-learning contributes to College of Coastal Georgia’s institutional mission by advocating excellence in scholarship and community engagement
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is a teaching and learning method that utilizes a combination of academic course content and relevant service with community agencies. The classroom learning for students is augmented with service activities that are intended to provide exposure to and enhanced understanding of course concepts and theories. Service activities are negotiated between the faculty member teaching the course, the community organization, and the students so that the service equally benefits student learning and a community need.
In 2010, the College of Coastal Georgia’s Quality Enhancement Plan Steering Committee adopted the following definition of service-learning:
Service-learning is a credit-bearing academic experience in which students participate in organized service experiences that respond to a wide spectrum of community needs.
Through structured reflection on their service activities, students gain a deeper understanding of course content, develop skills in community leadership, and advance their appreciation of social responsibility, global awareness, and diversity.
Service-learning allows students to practically apply and test their academic learning through hands-on career and professional development opportunities that also promote community interests.
Why Service-Learning is Important
Service-learning emphasizes meaningful student learning through applied, active learning that draws on multiple knowledge sources (academic, student knowledge and experience, and community knowledge). Service-learning also provides students with ample opportunities for gaining practical experience within a discipline and with critical reflection. Effective service-learning courses are those that use service and civic engagement to integrate and enhance academic learning, not to take the place of it. Service-learning allows students to practically apply and test their academic learning through hands-on opportunities that also promote community interests.
Service-learning helps students discover the skills that will make them successful beyond college. Problem identification, teamwork, professional communication, planning, overcoming obstacles, and creating solutions to high level community problems are just some of the skills that are promoted through service-learning projects. Although the projects themselves are important, the learning, connection to course content, and skill development are the overall learning objectives of all service-learning courses.
Students in service-learning designated courses make a commitment to become actively involved in a service project or dedicating a certain amount of service hours to an organization. Students are graded through a variety of structured reflection activities which range from classroom discussions to reflective end-of-course essays and presentations.
Difference between Service-Learning and Volunteerism
Service-learning goes above and beyond community service and volunteerism. While those activities are an important part of community engagement, service-learning differs in several ways. First, the service activities address specific community needs related to learning goals and objectives of a particular course of the students providing the service.
Service-Learning also differs from community service or volunteerism in that:
- It is academically integrated — service is part of the coursework, not an unrelated "add on" requirement.
- Service-learning projects are purposefully designed service projects that focus on community needs AND academic outcomes.
- Students are evaluated on the learning gained from their service experience.
- It includes substantial, ongoing forms of structured reflection and analysis (before, during, and after the service).
- It values student and community knowledge and involves community collaborators in the design of the course and service project.
- The service typically lasts the duration or majority of the semester, and experiences are intended to build upon themselves and on the accumulation of classroom knowledge.
- It is based on collaboration and reciprocal relationships between faculty, students, and community partners.
- Community partners work together with service-learning students and faculty members to identify community problems and interventions.
- Projects typically have real world challenges that students, community partners, and faculty must overcome together.
Service-Learning Course Qualifying Criteria
- The instructor has completed service-learning training through the Center for Service-Learning.
- Suggested minimum of 12-15 hours of completed service per student, per course, OR students can be assigned to specific project to complete by a certain point in the semester.
- Service is academically linked to course goals and objectives.
- Reflection activities are the key component that link the academic course content to the service activity.