Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What is Service-Learning?

There are many different definitions of service-learning, but in essence, it is ‘learning by doing.’ According to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, service-learning merges academic education with community service, in which both the provider and recipient gain valuable knowledge and expertise. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their experiences within these structured opportunities and to identify the connections between classroom knowledge and hands-on activities. Please click here for more information.

Further exploring this concept, three common attributes of service-learning are active learning, reciprocity and reflection. The characteristics of effective service-learning are (click here for the original site):
  • Students learn and develop through active participation in organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of the community; and is a coordinated effort between the community and an institution of higher education.
  • The learning experience includes structured time for the students and community participants to reflect on and analyze the service experience.
  • The service activity must be connected to classroom learning and theory, and community service placements must be connected to course objectives and learning outcomes.
Many forms of service-based learning already exist. However, there are distinctions among various service and learning combinations, including volunteerism, internships and service-learning. The article describing these distinctions can be accessed here.

The proposed Agricultural Communications Education Centre would be a model of a service-learning initiative. For example, an organization could come to the Centre requiring a website designed, and capable students would be able complete the project by both using and building on their existing abilities.

Do you have any experience with service-learning? If yes, how has this experience influenced your education?

No comments: