Service-Learning is a form of experiential learning where students apply academic knowledge and critical thinking skills to address genuine community needs.
-Pamela and James Toole, 1994
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning is a teaching and learning methodology which fosters civic responsibility and applies classroom learning through meaningful service to the community. The strongest service-learning experiences occur when the service is meaningfully immersed in ongoing learning and is a natural part of the curriculum that extends into the community. Service-learning is an essential strategy in providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum which will prepare students to succeed in the 21st century.
When planning a service-learning project it helps to consult the Rubric for Continuous Improvement of the Service-Learning Experience.
The IPARDC Process
Research shows that service-learning experiences that incorporate the national standards and indicators result in positive academic, civic, and social-emotional outcomes. In high quality service-learning practice, the standards and indicators are met throughout the implementation process, which includes five components:
Using the IPARDC process as the framework within which your students will design and carry out their service-learning experience, you will be able to blend instruction in core academic skills to intentionally achieve your intended goals. Be sure to review the Service-Learning Implementation guide for more information on this process.
Benefits of Service-Learning
Service-learning can improve academic and social outcomes for students by providing them with opportunities to apply academic knowledge to real-world issues. Research has also demonstrated that service-learning can have a positive impact on:
- Attendance and drop-out rates
- Academic and civic engagement
- Reducing youth risk behaviors
- Reducing discipline problems
- School and classroom climate
The current focus of the Learn and Serve grant is to support ongoing professional development and establish an infrastructure to nurture the practice of high quality service-learning throughout local districts.
The Corporation for National Service
The Corporation for National Service (CNS) uses the service-learning definition listed in the 1993 National and Community Service Trust Act. Following is both the definition and the purpose of the Trust Act.
Service Learning: Federal Definition
What is Service-Learning?
Service-learning combines service to the community with student learning in a way that improves both the student and the community. According to the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993: (23) SERVICE-LEARNING– The term 'service-learning' means a method–
A) under which students or participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that–
(i) is conducted in and meets the needs of a community;
(ii) is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program, and with the community; and
(iii) helps foster civic responsibility; and
(i) is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the educational components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled; and
(ii) provides structured time for the students or participants to reflect on the service experience.
The purpose of the 1993 Trust Act:
(a) IN GENERAL- Section 2 of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12501) is amended to read as follows:
SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.
(a) FINDINGS– The Congress finds the following:
(1) Throughout the United States, there are pressing unmet human, educational, environmental, and public safety needs.
(2) Americans desire to affirm common responsibilities and shared values, and join together in positive experiences, that transcend race, religion, gender, age, disability, region, income, and education.
(3) The rising costs of postsecondary education are putting higher education out of reach for an increasing number of citizens.
(4) Americans of all ages can improve their communities and become better citizens through service to the United States.
(5) Nonprofit organizations, local governments, States, and the Federal Government are already supporting wide variety of national service programs that deliver needed services in a cost-effective manner.
(6) Residents of low-income communities, especially youth and young adults, can be empowered through their service, and can help provide future community leadership.
(b) PURPOSE– It is the purpose of this Act to–
(1) meet the unmet human, educational, environmental, and public safety needs of the United States, without displacing existing workers;
(2) renew the ethic of civic responsibility and the spirit of community throughout the United States;
(3) expand educational opportunity by rewarding individuals who participate in national service with an increased ability to pursue higher education or job training;
(4) encourage citizens of the United States, regardless of age, income, or disability, to engage in full-time part-time national service;
(5) reinvent government to eliminate duplication, support locally established initiatives, require measurable goals for performance, and offer flexibility in meeting those goals;
(6) expand and strengthen existing service programs with demonstrated experience in providing structured service opportunities with visible benefits to the participants and community;
(7) build on the existing organizational service infrastructure of Federal, State, and local programs and agencies to expand full-time and part-time service opportunities for all citizens; and
(8) provide tangible benefits to the communities in which national service is performed.
- Is a method whereby students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of communities;
- Is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program and the community;
- Helps foster civic responsibility;
- Is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the education components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled;
- And provides structured time for students or participants to reflect on the service experience.