Academic Service-Learning connects the concepts in the classroom to service experiences in the community. Service-learning helps prepare students for a lifetime of civic engagement and leadership. In addition, service-learning is an important learning tool that allows them to apply the concepts, theories and other material covered in class. The community becomes a text for the class and is as critical to “read” as other textbooks.
The following links offer you an overview of the process and practice of academic service-learning at Seattle University. You can also download this information in a pdf version by clicking here.
There are a variety of ways for faculty to use academic service-learning in their courses. CSCE has identified two approaches as particularly effective for Seattle University.
Students choose a community agency from a list of opportunities approved by their professor and serve for a set period of time. The placement-based approach works particularly well in introductory level courses because it does not require students to have a particular expertise or set of skills.
PSYC 120: Introduction to Psychology. This course combines the academic study of psychology with an 18 hour service experience at homeless shelters, schools or other direct service agencies. Professors ask students to draw upon their service experiences as an additional “text” through discussions and assignments.
Students work on a project identified by a community agency. Typically working in small groups, students draw upon previous knowledge and course content to successfully complete the project. The project-based approach is most appropriate for upper level courses since it can be structured to utilize students’ expertise in a particular discipline.
FINC 343: Financial Institutions and Markets. Students act as “consultants” for the City of Seattle’s Economic Development Division. In teams of three or four, students identify and survey immigrant business owners in Seattle. Each team subsequently develops a report and recommendations for how the city might support the expansion of these important business efforts.
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Incorporating a service component into a course takes time and thoughtful planning. The Center for Service and Community Engagement provides support to faculty interested in adding a service component to a course. Below is a brief overview of the recommended steps to follow when designing a service-learning course.
- Initial Meeting. Meet with Center staff to discuss your interest in academic service-learning. Please contact the Center at least three months prior to the quarter you intend to offer your service-learning course. If you have an existing syllabus for the course, please bring it to this meeting.
- Faculty Fellows Program. Before proceeding further with your course design, you might consider applying to participate in the Academic Service-Learning Faculty Fellows Program. Through this program faculty learn the theory and practice of academic service-learning through a three-day summer training, quarterly seminars, and individual meetings with the Fellowship Director. As a part of the Fellowship, faculty receive a small stipend and a chance to attend a conference on academic service-learning. For information contact Dr. Jeffrey Anderson (email@example.com).
- Determine Approach. Determine which approach to service-learning (placement or project) you will use in your course. As a general rule, it is recommended that the placement-based approach be used for introductory level courses and the project -based approach be used in advanced level courses.
- Use the Principles. The Principles of Good Practice for Academic Service-Learning, designed by the Center for Service and Community Engagement in conjunction with Seattle University faculty, provide detailed suggestions for crafting a high quality service-learning experience.
- SU Online. Briefly explain the service-learning component in your SU Online course description. This will help students avoid taking too many service-learning courses in one quarter.
- For Project-Based Courses. High quality project-based service-learning courses require strong communication between faculty and community agencies. For this reason, Center staff will work closely with you to develop the appropriate connections with community agencies. During this process you may need to participate in a series of meetings with Center staff and/or representatives from community organizations. One of the benefits of these meetings is that faculty often find that they can connect future courses with the same organizations.
- For Placement-Based Courses. All placement-based courses supported by CSCE require students to complete either 18 hours or 36 hours of service during the quarter. If you choose to use the placement-based approach here’s a brief timeline of what to expect.
- Five weeks prior to beginning of course, Center staff provide you with a brief orientation to “e-Serve,” Seattle University’s web-based service-learning tracking system.
- Four weeks prior to beginning of course, Center staff provide you with a tentative list of community agencies for you to approve.
- Two weeks prior to beginning of course, Center staff contact agencies to confirm their desire to have your students at their site.
- First week of quarter, Center staff offer an in-class presentation to introduce students to the service-learning experience and CSCE’s services. During this presentation, representatives from community agencies may provide a brief overview of their service needs.
- By the third week of the quarter, students make contact with community agency, begin their service experience, and complete risk release and site contract through e-Serve.
- After the end of the fourth week in the quarter, Center staff will no longer be able to offer students assistance in finding appropriate placements. For this reason and because service-learning works best when it is not a “cram” experience, you may want to incorporate penalties in your grading system for students who procrastinate getting started at their service-learning sites.
- During the ninth week of the quarter, staff from community agencies use e-Serve to complete an evaluation and verify the hours of the students who served at their site. Students also complete an evaluation using e-Serve.
- During the tenth week of the quarter, you can log on to e-Serve to confirm that students have completed the service-learning requirement and to read the student and agency evaluations.
- During the quarter following the course, meet with Center staff to reflect on your experience with placement-based service-learning.
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Using academic service-learning as a pedagogical strategy can have a significant impact on student learning. The following research findings from Vanderbilt University illustrate the benefits of academic service-learning in the context of the values of Seattle University.
Service-learning participation has an impact on such academic outcomes as demonstrated complexity of understanding, problem analysis, critical thinking, and cognitive development.
Service-learning may contribute to reducing stereotypes and facilitate cultural and racial understanding.
Care for Students
Students engaged in service-learning are more likely to graduate.
Service-learning increases students’ sense of personal identity and efficacy, spiritual growth, and moral development.
Service-learning has a positive effect on students’ sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills.
Service-learning has a positive effect on interpersonal development, leadership, communication skills, and the ability to work well with others.
These findings are from Eyler, Janet S., Dwight E. Giles, Jr., Christine M. Stenson, and Charlene J.Gray. At A Glance:What We Know about the Effects of Service-Learning on College Students, Faculty, Institutions and Communities, 1993-2000, Third Edition. Campus Compact.
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The Center for Service and Community Engagement has worked in partnership with the University Counsel to establish policies, procedures, and guidelines for minimizing risk in university-sponsored service experiences. All students engaging in service-learning through academic courses should read and sign a “Service-Learning Agreement, Risk Acknowledgement, and Release.” Copies of this document are available at the Center for Service and Community Engagement. The Center also has developed partnership and project agreements that faculty can use to develop safe and effective relationships with community organizations. Center staff is available to answer questions or assist faculty in thinking about safety and liability concerns related to service-learning courses and other service projects.
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The following principles, gleaned from a wide body of research on the best practices in service-learning, are intended to assist faculty with the design of quality service-learning courses. The strategies listed below each principle are not meant to be prescriptive, but are guidelines for ensuring a successful and meaningful service-learning experience.
Ethical and Effective Service
It is essential to establish community connections that provide deep learning experiences for students as well as useful resources to the community. The duration and intensity of the service experience has an impact on student and community outcomes. Key principles:
- Allow the community to define their need for service.
- Offer a sufficient amount of service to meet course objectives and effectively address community needs.
- Collaborate with students and community partners to offer significant decision making roles in selecting, designing, implementing and evaluating the service-learning experience.
- Prepare students for all aspects of their service experience including a sensitivity to the people with whom they will be working.
- Follow University protocol regarding safety and risk management issues.
Academic rigor is enhanced through service-learning. Thoughtfully integrating the students’ service experiences into course content substantially increases student learning. Key principles:
- Describe the service-learning experience in the course syllabus.
- Offer credit for learning, not for service alone. Use essays, term papers, journals, or oral presentations to evaluate the learning derived from the service.
- Mention the service-learning component in the SU Bulletin course description.
- Connect students’ service experiences with the larger contemporary and historical political, economic, and social contexts in which the experience is embedded.
Without having opportunities for reflection, students may not see the connections between their service experiences and the learning goals of the course. The quantity and quality of reflection in service-learning courses significantly impacts student learning. Key principles:
- Provide significant classroom time for reflection and analysis.
- Give students assignments that analyze, reflect, or process the relationship between the service they are providing and the class material they are studying.
- Raise questions that help students link their service experiences to systemic issues of injustice.
- Use two or more types of reflection and analysis (e.g. journals, papers, discussions, presentations)
Engagement with the Community
Faculty engagement with community agencies where their students are serving enhances student learning and community impact. Partnerships between faculty and community agencies are more successful if they are consistent from year to year. Key principles:
- Choose projects/agencies that reflect the diverse nature of the community.
- Visit community agencies and meet with staff and other stakeholders.
- Whenever possible, consistently address the same issue and work with the same community agency.
- Recognize that the community agency staff and other community leaders can play an essential role in educating students.
- Share your academic calendar, course expectations and syllabus with community agency.
- Emphasize to students the importance of keeping commitments made to community agencies.
Principles developed by Jeffrey Anderson and Kent Koth, June 2005, using the follwing resources:
Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1999.
Eyler, Giles, Stenson, and Gray. 2001. http://www.compact.org/resources/downloads/aag
Kaye, Cathryn Berger. The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, and Social Action. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 2004.
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The Center for Service and Community Engagement houses a library of books, articles, and journals on service-learning that faculty may borrow.
For an online resource of syllabi by discipline, assessment tools and program models, service-learning tool-kits, faculty grants and awards, links, articles, statistics and more visit the Campus Compact website.
In addition, the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse has an easy-to-use, searchable database of about 1,000 links in over 40 topic areas to high quality websites with information about service-learning courses and community-based research.
Become part of a national forum for discussion on such issues as curriculum requests, class assignments and the institutionalization of service-learning as they pertain to the Higher Education service-learning community. Subscribe by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about statewide resources and events in the area of service-learning and community-based research subscribe to Washington Campus Compact’s listserv: http://www.wacampuscompact.org/listserve.html
Each year dozens of conferences and institutes are offered for faculty interested in using service-learning as a pedagogical tool or pursing a community-based research project. Seattle University is a member of Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 950 college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education. Campus Compact offers a calendar of conferences and institutes at www.compact.org
In addition, every year Washington Campus Compact co-sponsors the Continuums of Service Conference which brings together over 400 faculty, staff, students and community leaders to explore ways to deepen civic engagement on campus. Visit the Washington Campus Compact website for more information about attending the conference and submitting a workshop proposal: http://www.wacampuscompact.org/
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Workshops and Lunch Discussions
The Center for Service and Community Engagement will be offering a series of lunchtime discussions on reflection in service-learning.
Past lunch discussion topics have included:
Reflection in Service-Learning: How to do it?
How do you connect reflection and assessment?
How do you help students reflect academically and spiritually?
How do you use reflection to do social analysis of issues of injustice?
Additionally,we partner with the Center for the Excellence in Teaching and Learning to offer workshops for faculty to develop service-learning courses. These workshops are open to all Seattle University faculty.
Previous topics have included:
- Introduction to service-learning course design
- Incorporating service-learning into graduate courses: five challenges and solutions
- Deepening the learning in service-learning through critical reflection
- Turning a difficult moment into a teachable moment: academic service-learning and race
For more information about workshops, please contact Kent Koth at 206.296.2329.
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