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To aid your development of a service-learning course, we encourage you to
complete the service-learning course worksheet. The purpose of the worksheet is meant to serve two purposes: to focus your thinking on the key elements of service-learning while you’re planning the course and to provide you and the Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement with a basis for discussion. The following have been adapted from the faculty service-learning resources at Beliot College and the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.
Course Planning Worksheet Help
Though the service-learning course worksheet is mostly self-explanatory, some areas can use expansion. Below are explanations of many common questions.
There are five different models of the pedagogy used by the office of service-learning and community engagement. Visit the
service-learning models page for more information and examples about each of them.
Writing effective learning objectives is one of the most challenging aspects of service learning for many faculty. Yet the importance of clear and measurable objectives cannot be overstated, as they form the basis for your students’ knowledge of how to connect their service with course content as well as the basis for your assessment of the learning that occurred.
This refers to the types of activities you’d like to see students doing, or even activities you don’t want them doing. For example, if students in a political science class are studying how work gets done in the city and are placed in a neighborhood association, you would want them to be doing community organizing, not tutoring in the agency’s after school program. Or, if you want your students to interact with elderly people who are well rather than those who are very frail or ill, your students would need very specific placements.
Achieving this balance is extremely important. If the service learning option is seen as a "piece of cake" (e.g. if service learners are asked to write a 5 page paper in lieu of taking the final and writing a 15 page research paper), students will choose that option in droves just to get out of doing work. On the other hand, if it appears the service learners are being penalized for choosing that option, (e.g. by having to do the service, keep journals, complete research to incorporate scholarly work into their service learning paper and write a paper that’s as long or longer than the ones the traditional learners are writing) even students who might be inclined to choose service learning may feel the work is unfair and opt out.
Since service learners generally spend about 20-25 hours in their placement and another 5 or more hours in travel, it’s important to make those 20-30 hours on the left side balance out with 20-30 on the right. Keep in mind that the service time does not include time spent in writing the paper or preparing the oral report. So, don’t count paper writing time for the traditional learners either. If you’re going to assign each group a 10 page paper, ask yourself if the traditional learner will realistically spend 20-30 hours researching and gathering information. If not, can you adjust the requirement in some way to balance it out? Could you, for example, lengthen the traditional learner’s paper and/or shorten the service learner’s paper? Or, could the service learners be exempted from another requirement? Could they use their service learning to fulfill one or more additional requirements? One professor has 5 questions on her final exam, drawn from a list of 10 that she gives students. One question is worded in such a way that only service learners could answer it. It’s a little break, but sometimes that’s all it takes to achieve balance.
Giving service learners specific questions or issues to consider helps to focus their thinking and reminds them about the LEARNING part of service learning. It also gives them a jump-start in making the connection between their community experiences and the course. Some faculty devise the questions themselves and present them to the students; others have the students form their own questions, in consultation with them.
Asking academic questions is one way to improve journal entries—which often become more diaries of personal experiences, thoughts and feelings than vehicles for critical thinking and integration. If students use the split-journal approach, they can write their experiences, thoughts and feelings on the left side and reflect upon these in light of questions dealing with course content on the right side. This is especially crucial if journals are to be graded.
Reflection is what connects the service with the learning. Without reflection—both individual and in class—the service can easily become volunteer work rather than community-based learning.
reflection strategies page for examples of reflection. (Note: If the word "reflection” seems to suggest something non-academic to you, try substituting it for a word like “integration.")
While reflective, integrative papers are probably the most common demonstration of learning that faculty request of service learners, there are other equally effective means of evaluating learning: journaling, oral presentations, written or oral examinations and products created for agencies such as videos, brochures, newsletters, reports, etc.
Service-learning and journaling often go hand in hand, especially when the course is more theoretical than practical (e.g. a literature class vs. a writing class). Students’ journals should not be diaries, where they merely describe what they did and how they felt about it. They should be guided (perhaps by the academic questions) to reflect on the deeper issues and meanings behind what they see and do. Whether you grade the journals is up to you, but it’s a good idea to collect them at least once or twice before the end of the semester to make sure students are on the right track.
There is a value of oral presentations for service learners. They allow the other students in class to learn more about the community, whereas final papers usually only enlighten the professor. Additionally, giving presentations is a way for students to practice and develop their oral communication skills. As with other assignments, group presentations are more effective if structure is imposed. Presenters can be required to focus on, or at least include, material from the course, rather than merely describing their weekly experiences. Other groups of class members, especially traditional learners, can be assigned the task of devising questions for the presenters that will get at some deeper points for discussion.
Center for International Studies
Center for Research and Scholarship Support
Center for Teaching Excellence & Learning
Metropolitan Studies Institute
Dr. Abraham Goldberg
Director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement
Associate Professor of Political Science Campus Life Center 202864-503-5670
Associate Director of Metropolitan EngagementAdmin 326F864-503-7366
Heather RossiVolunteer Program CoordinatorCampus Life Center, 202864-503-5106
Charlie LaferAmeriCorps VISTA Campus Life Center, 202864-503-7200
Graduate Assistant for Community Engagement
800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303
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