Cedar Rapids at sunrise

Course Development

There are a variety of resources available for faculty considering developing a service-learning course or for the seasoned users of service-learning who are searching for additional ideas or support.

Contact the Office of Community and Civic Engagement if you have questions or would like support in developing or revising a service-learning course.

Service-Learning Course Design

Sample Service-Learning Course Syllabi

Building Community-Campus Partnerships Resources

Reflection Resources

"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

Integrating Reflection into Service-Learning Courses

There are a variety of ways for students to reflect on their service-learning experience. Below are examples of how reflection has been integrated into service-learning courses.

Articles about Reflection

  • Reflection Guidebook, Santa Monica College
  • Reflection: Linking Service and Learning, Eyler, Journal of Social Issues

Assessment Resources

  • Classroom Assessment and Service-Learning
  • The Measure of Service-Learning
  • AACU Metarubric
  • Service-Learning Best Practices: Creating a SL Grading Rubric, Northeastern University

Risk Management Recommendations

Prior to when students leave the campus to participate in service-learning experiences, risk management and liability should be addressed. Above all, student safety and expectations of a partner site should be discussed. Please review the guiding principles for risk management listed below.

Guiding Principles to Reduce Risk in Service-Learning

  • DO provide campus and community orientations to familiarize students with policies, procedures and risks involved in the specific service activities they will be providing and with the populations they serve.
  • DO discuss the service-learning project with students so they fully understand their responsibilities, learning objectives and service objectives and are informed of the risks associated with their service-learning placements.
  • DO know when each student is scheduled to provide service and be able to verify that the student did provide the service at the community-based organization site. This will help to determine who holds liability for student behavior or student injury at any given time.
  • DON’T assume that campus and site orientations are consistent; they vary among courses, campuses, departments and community-based organizations.
  • DON’T assume that students are aware of such issues as liability or sexual harassment policies. Both campus and site orientations are necessary to familiarize students with any potential risks involved with service-learning activities.

Online Resources

  • American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.
  • Campus Compact is a member organization of universities and colleges committed to educating students to become active citizens who are well equipped to develop creative solutions to society’s most pressing issues
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center devoted to encourage and uphold the profession of the teacher
  • CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) conducts and publishes research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans
  • National Service-Learning Clearinghouse is Learn & Serve America’s comprehensive resource for finding definitions, resources, examples, models, and programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is service-learning?

Service-learning is a holistic pedagogy that integrates meaningful community service, community engagement, or civic engagement into academic course objectives through experiential learning and critical reflection to enrich the educational experience of students, teach civic responsibility and meet the needs of a community.

My students give service in my class. Is it service-learning?

Maybe. Our staff is happy to discuss whether your class has all the elements of service-learning. We can also assist you in course design and the incorporation of best practices.

How is service-learning different from community service and internships?

The primary beneficiary of community service is the recipient of the service; the primary beneficiary of an internship is most often the student, who gets hands-on experience, but there are service-learning elements which can be developed here. In service-learning, both student and community benefit; a student learns in a hands-on model while providing a service that benefits the common good.

What is the advantage of taking (or teaching) a service-learning course?

Studies indicate that students forget half of what they learn passively, but they remember 90% when they DO the “real thing.” Astin’s study from the Higher Education Research Institute indicates that service participation shows significant positive effects on all its outcome measurements, including: GPA, writing skills, critical thinking, values, self-efficacy, and leadership.

Is assistance available for faculty who choose to include service-learning activities in their classes?

Yes, our staff can assist with everything from restructuring syllabi to selecting community partners. Depending on the coursework, there may also be funds available for travel and meals.

How are service-learning sites selected?

Faculty members ask community engagement staff to provide possible sites where service goals match academic course objectives. Community engagement staff consult with agencies and community organizations and supply ideas for sites that provide the most appropriate match. Faculty members then choose the appropriate site considering safety, supervision, orientation and evaluation for faculty, students, and community partners.

What kinds of service can students do?

The nature of the service varies with the discipline...from grant writing and tutoring in composition classes to water and soil testing in chemistry classes. The service may be in the form of a project such as a marketing plan for a nonprofit agency in a business class or weekly mentoring at an agency or school. In all cases, the service is directly connected to academic learning goals, is designed to enhance learning by testing theory or developing skills, and is done in partnership with a community agency.

How are students graded in a service-learning class?

It depends on the class and the instructor, but generally the amount of service is not the important part. Academic credit is awarded for the learning that comes from the experience. The learning may be measured by projects, papers, presentations, reflective journals, or other methods, and the course is structured so that students do different work, not more work.

How can students find out which classes offer service-learning?

For information about courses that incorporate service-learning, please contact the Office of Community and Civic Engagement at 319.399.8260.

Why is there a hyphen in service-learning?

The hyphen emphasizes the reciprocal nature of service-learning. Both the community and the students benefit. The hyphen also represents reflection, which is the bridge between service and learning.