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Service Learning: What is service learning?

To support the faculty of service-learning classes and provide them with resources for research.

What is service learning?

According to the Murray State University Academic Bulletin, "service learning uses experiential learning techniques to combine community service with specific learning objectives in a course" (2014-15, p. 64). Through service learning students perform meaningful service to the community while engaging in a study that is related to that service.

  • Philosophically, service learning reflects the belief that education should be connected to values, character, and social responsibility.
  • Students learn and develop through active participation in carefully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with the school and the community.
  • The instructional method is integrated into the academic curriculum and provides time for students to reflect on their activities through small group discussions, class activities, and journal writing.
  • Students have opportunities to use newly acquired knowledge and skills in actual community situations.
  • The lessons taught in the classroom and extended into the communities help students develop a sense of caring and responsibility for others (National Community Service Act, 1990).

For students to earn recognition as a Service Learning Scholar they need to complete twelve (12) hours of credit in Service Learning designated courses. Additionally, the student must have an overall GPA of 2.75 and a minimum GPA of 3.00 in the designated classes. This designation will be recognized on the student’s academic record.

Best Practices

How do I teach a service learning course?

Application process at Murray State

Syllabus statement

Include one of these course descriptions in your syllabus to help students understand what a service learning course entails and how it benefits their learning. Use it in Part XII of the approved MSU syllabus.

  • Option 1: Academic service learning is an educational approach that combines learning objectives with service objectives in order to deepen a student’s understanding in a specific discipline. It’s a form of experiential education, where students participate in community service projects that fulfill an actual community need. An important part of academic service learning is reflection, during which the student sees how the community service experience ties in with what he or she learns in class. Reflection can be carried out through reading, writing, doing, or telling. The ultimate goal is to apply the knowledge gained through reflection to real-life situations.
  • Option 2: This course includes a Service Learning experience. As a result, this course has the SL (Service Learning) Designation. You will gain valuable experience putting theory into practice into the community. Because service learning broadens perspectives, enhances critical thinking skills, and improves communication skills, graduate schools and employers are increasingly seeking students with experience in service learning and community engagement.
  • Option 3: Combine options 1 and 2 into a single statement.

Tenure considerations

Course design

Reflection

“Reflection describes the process of deriving meaning and knowledge from experience and occurs before, during and after a service-learning project. Effective reflection engages both service-learning leaders and participants in a thoughtful and thought-provoking process that consciously connects learning with experience. It is the use of critical thinking skills to prepare for and learn from service experiences.” --National Service-Learning Clearinghouse

Benefits of Reflection
  • Connects coursework and theory with service in the community
  • Develops critical thinking skills
  • Challenges assumptions and opinions formed out of experience
  • Understand the complexity of the need for the service in a large context
  • Transformational

Assessment

Additional resources