How do I put Service Learning in my course?
Below is a brief list of tips for integrating service learning into your syllabus, along with a checklist and some suggestions for assignments. For more extensive information on service learning course construction click on the powerpoint presentations. "How do I customize my course for Service Learning?" offers models for service learning practice and making explicit connections to your curriculum and learning outcomes. "How do I grade my students?" offers a very practical 'how-to' for creating grading and evaluation rubrics for service-based assignments and courses.
Tips for Integrating Service into the Curriculum:
Talk about the service on the first day of class, perhaps even inviting a representative from a community agency to visit. Address student fears, concerns, and expectations.
Encourage your students (perhaps even as an in-class activity) to use a planning guide to find the best time and place for their service. If possible, you may want to have prepared ahead of time the various time slots the agencies on your list have available. Many of our students work and will automatically respond that they don't have any extra time. If the service assignment is an option, then this isn't a problem. However, depending on the nature of your assignment, there are many flex-time opportunities for students in evenings and on the weekends.
Just in case, have a back up plan for students with special needs. Some instructors may offer students who truly don't have a minute free, the option to do support work for their service group. This works best in group projects where two students may go to a senior home to organize activities and the third who works full time will print flyers, organize agendas, research activities, and prepare the group report from their notes.
Prepare students with the appropriate skills and brief them on their responsibilities regarding professionalism, commitment, and follow-through. Students will also need a specific timeline for contacting agencies, returning the service learning agreement, and starting and finishing their service.
Make sure to contact the community partner(s) at least once during the term to seek feedback.
The Service Learning Syllabus
As with any new course, the initial curriculum development may take some time. However, once a routine is in place, service learning takes no more time and effort than grading a stack of papers or exams. Initially, some faculty offer service assignments as an option to a longer research paper. The Office of Service Learning can help you in connecting with community agencies, which is often the most time consuming aspect of the process. Our office and the Faculty Development Office house resources on service learning across the curriculum. Plus a variety of websites may be accessed through our site.
Adapted from Assessing Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Principles and Techniques, Campus Compact, June 2001
- A course description which includes description of community-based learning experiences, approach for the course, and student responsibilities
- A statement of the learning objectives for students that are directly related to the community service component
- A statement of the specific need the service meets and anticipated outcomes for students and community partners
- Nature of projects/assignments related to the community service experience including opportunities for reflection, both structured and unstructured, in the form of assignments, journal writing, discussions, and other mechanisms explicitly described
- Readings/discussions/presentations/speakers related to the community service experience
- Direct and deliberate connections between the academic content and the community service experience
- A statement of assessment criteria of community service experience as an explicit component of determining course evaluation and grade