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What is service-learning?

Cover of High Quality Instruction that Transforms Guide

Service-learning is a teaching method that engages students in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies.


  • has an enduring positive impact on students' academic achievement, civic engagement, and personal and social development.
  • is an effective instructional pedagogy which asks students to use their abilities and skills to make their school, local, and global communities stronger.
  • is a key strategy in developing 21st century skills which will lead to a prepared workforce and a civically engaged citizenry.

DPI's service-learning implementation guide, High Quality Instruction That Transforms: A Guide to Implementing Quality Academic Service-Learning is available to download.

Is service-learning required? 

Service-learning is not a state graduation requirement. Districts are able to include community service as part of their graduation requirements, as outlined in 118.33(1)(c).

While service-learning includes community service, community service does not necessarily require service-learning.

Community Service Hours

State statute (Wis. Stat. 115.385) requires reporting on the courses and programs, including hours of community service provided by pupils. For more about reporting requirements, click here.

K-12 Service Learning Standards for Quality Practice

These standards and indicators were vetted through a series of "reactor panels" convened nationwide by the National Youth Leadership Council and RMC Research Corporation. The panels were composed of young people, teachers, school and district administrators, community members, staff from community-based organizations, policy-makers, and others interested in service-learning. The process was much like content-setting standards in other fields. Each panel considered the work of the two before them, revising the standards and indicators to ensure that they included the strongest aspects of quality, and to make the wording clearer, measurable, and actionable.

Standards and Indicators (PDF):

  • Meaningful Service
  • Link to Curriculum
  • Reflection
  • Diversity
  • Youth Voice
  • Partnerships
  • Progress Monitoring
  • Duration and Intensity
The Power of Young People To Change the World Radio Show

Thursday Podcast with NYLC

Explore how young people are using their ideas, creativity, and passion to shape a better world and how educators can utilize the power of service-learning to redesign education in this podcast.

Listen LIVE or search for an episode.



For questions about this information, contact Victoria Rydberg-Nania (608) 266-0419