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Academic Career Experience & Service Learning

Four Things Faculty Want to Know About

What is Service-Learning?

There are several characteristics which make service-learning a unique way to learn, serve, and teach. Service-learning holds up a mirror for us to see ourselves, a microscope for us to examine our society, and binoculars for us to see what lies ahead.

Characteristics of Service-Learning

  • Community service serves as the vehicle for the achievement of specific academic goals and objectives.
  • It provides structured time for students to reflect on their service and learning experiences through a mix of writing,reading, speaking, listening, and creating in small and large groups and individual work.
  • It fosters the development of those "intangibles"- empathy, personal values, beliefs, awareness, self-esteem, self-confidence, social-responsibility, and helps to foster a sense of caring for others.
  • It is based on a reciprocal relationship in which the service reinforces and strengthens the learning, and the learning reinforces and strengthens the service.
  • Credit is awarded for learning, college-level learning, not for a requisite number of service hours.

How is service-learning different from Community Service, Internships, Cooperative Education, etc.?

  • Service-learning uses community service as the vehicle for the attainment of students' academic goals and objectives.
  • Community service fills a need in the community through volunteer efforts. Service-learning also fills that need, but it uses that need as a foundation to examine ourselves, our society, and our future. Further, service-learning provides students with opportunities to use newly acquired skills and knowledge in real-life situations.
  • It identifies in advance, and tracks, specific learning objectives and goals (as well as the intangible ones).
  • Students perform a valuable, significant, and necessary service which has real consequence to the community.
  • The goal of the service is to empower students and those being served.
  • The needs of the community dictate the service being provided.

What about Liability?

First- consult your university/college attorney or risk manager and review all procedures, coverage and risk, et al. **This information is partially excerpted from NSEE "Combining Service and Learning, Vol. II, pg.39-60

  • There is an inherent assumption of risk for which all students are responsible. All volunteers and service-learners should be fully informed, in advance, of any risks inherent in the activity, must knowingly consent to undertake such risks.
  • Your center will exercise due care and attempt to foresee dangers to students and take whatever precautions seem reasonable to avoid them.
  • Work with faculty to prepare a list or "pre-approved" sites. Discuss the list in detail going over each agency. Make the professor confident in the agency site, mission, and service activities.
  • All service-learners must sign a waiver of liability written by the university's attorney.
  • The agency that provides the service-learning experience will, in most cases, be responsible for the acts of students assigned to it and assumes the responsibility for the student. Be certain the agency has liability coverage/insurance for volunteers.

What is the Faculty's role? What is the Center's role? Who Does What?

Logistics / Administrative Tasks

  • Develops volunteer placement list
  • Makes presentations about service-learning
    component of course.
  • Registers and records all students and
    service placements.
  • Monitoring, problem-solving.
  • Conducts small group reflection sessions.
  • Evaluations (pre- and post-service survey)

Teaching / Instructional Tasks

  • Consents to be advisor.
  • Sets learning objectives.
  • Includes service-learning in syllabus.
  • Guides/fosters in-class reflection.
  • Reviews final reflective journals.
  • Gives final letter grade.

Advisement, Follow-up, Reflection

  • Faculty and Volunteer Center meet to discuss service-learning options.
  • Approve volunteer site selections and volunteer duties.
    (Are volunteer duties harmonious with learning objectives?)
  • Get involved - attend reflection sessions, go out and volunteer with your students, facilitate in-class discussions, read journals, etc.

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