Service Learning

Service learning is a pedagogical technique that is closely related to the principles of experiential learning—learning from direct experience/contact. More specifically, service learning embraces the application of course content in the community. A possible starting point for thinking about service learning is conceptualizing it as learning by doing. Most service learning projects have at least three components: (1) course content applied in the community; (2) a community partnership with mutual determined goals (To provide a mutually beneficial outcome); and (3) student reflection on the entire process. Maryville University has defined Service Learning as
Experiences in the community that enable students’ active application of course- related concepts and skills through the provision of services that are needed and valued by community partners. Character development and a deeper understanding of the lives and perspectives of diverse people are inherent to service learning. These are achieved through assignments designed by the course instructor to facilitate students’ emotional and cognitive awareness of themselves and others through reflection. (Cunningham, Deschamp, McGee, & Temme, 2006, p.1).
Service learning has seen much growth and interest since the early 1990s and has been shown to increase civic engagement, understanding of diversity, critical thinking, and self-directed learning (Bringle, Phillips, & Hudson, 2004; Strage, 2000). Moreover, due to the experiential nature of service learning it provides a unique opportunity for student to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Students have the direct capability to apply what they are learning in the community and reflect on its outcome. Student reflection is a needed aspect to increase students’ affective learning.
From a pedagogical perspective, service learning can take many forms in the class room. Service learning can be the central focus for demonstrating student ability and assessment. Or it can be focused on a smaller amount of course content or skills. Examples of service learning include: (1) an accounting class providing tax preparation services at a local community center; (2) Rehabilitation Counseling and Services students hosting a disability awareness day on their college campus; and (3) students enrolled in a job placement or career development course providing a resume writing workshop at a local One Stop Center.  One thing is for sure, service learning provides a means for students to have a direct impact in their community.

Bringle, R. G., & Duffy, D. K. (Eds.). (2006). With service in mind concepts and models for service-learning in psychology. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.
Cunningham, B., Deschamp, D., McGee, J., & Temme,K. (2006). Service learning consultants. Missouri: Maryville University of St. Louis, Service Learning Committee.
For more information on service learning in rehabilitation see:
Kiener, M. S. (2008). Teaching service learning to enhance reflective practice and research skills. Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Journal, 2, (2), 50-59.
Mpofu, E. (2004). Teaching with service learning: Strategies and opportunities for
Last modified: Monday, 29 June 2009, 01:48 PM