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Service Learning Steps to Success for Community Partners

Service Learning is a teaching method that allows students to apply classroom concepts in support of public or nonprofit entities working for positive change in the community. Through service learning, students relate or apply what they learn in class to community-defined, real-life problems. Students learn practical applications of their studies and become actively-contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.

At KU, students enrolled in a course may participate in community service either through direct service, by working with agency staff, or by advocating for a specific cause.

1. Find ways service learning can meet your organization’s mission and goals.
  • Explore specific ways students could contribute, either as individual volunteers or through a class project.
  • What never gets off your "to-do" list?
  • What would your organization like to do that you can’t now?
2. Consider the kinds of service learning in which you'd like to participate.
  • Getting started is often the hardest part. Begin with simple projects, then build.
  • Will students be working directly with clients or will they be working with agency staff to advance the organizational mission?
  • Tight collaborations need more planning up front; looser collaborations require checking in periodically for optimal results.
  • Decide whether you want to work closely with a few classes, or more loosely with many classes.
3. Plan collaboratively.
  • Get to know your faculty partners.
  • Discuss goals and challenges early.
  • Address service goals for your organization and learning goals for the students.
  • Request service commitments of 20+ hours per student. You will improve your return on investment, and students will experience more.
4. Create well-defined roles.
  • Work with faculty to define the student assignment, supervision, and reporting.
  • Students will be more motivated if they have choices regarding their involvement and the importance of their contribution is clear.
  • Clarify responsibilities and measures of accountability.
  • Make sure students receive the proper training and orientation.
5. Monitor progress, evaluate, & adapt.
  • Determine how your organization will evaluate and/or document student service.
  • Keep evaluation and documentation measures simple.
  • Ask students and the people served what is working and what is not.
  • Discuss with your faculty partner what improvements could be made for a better collaboration.
  • If a student calls at the last minute wanting volunteer hours, politely say “no,” and suggest he or she call ahead next time.

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