Service learning is a pedagogical form that offers students immediate opportunities to apply classroom learning to support the efforts of public or nonprofit entities that work 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. Through directed critical reflection, students learn to integrate their learning about community needs with the learning goals of the class and their learning of self.
As a teaching method, service learning is best categorized as a form of experiential education.
Service learning can be incorporated into a class by working with a wide range of entities, including schools, university departments, community-based organizations. It can involve a group of students, a project in a class, or an entire course. Students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community.
- practical experience that challenges their perceptions and assumptions
- opportunities to apply classroom learning in real-world settings
- deeper understanding and commitment to civic engagement
- awareness of the broad range of life experiences
- a better sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, and moral development
- leadership, communication, and team work skills
- increased student understanding of course material
- innovative and creative teaching methods
- increased student engagement and motivation
- establish connections between theory and application
- promote an environment that encourages personal and civic responsibility
- valuable service accomplished by enthusiastic and creative volunteers
- strong partnerships with schools, colleges and universities
- access to resources of education institutions
- creative ways to expand capacity
- education of students about the mission and work of the organization
- positive exposure in the community
- future lifelong volunteers and contributors
- help with planning, evaluation, and advancing the organization’s mission
- motivated students who report improved satisfaction with college
- expanded learning opportunities
- strong partnerships with community-based organizations
- access to community resources
- positive exposure in the community
- stronger student-faculty relationships
- better retention and graduation rates
Types & Models
Types of Service
person-to-person, face-to-face service projects in which the students’ service directly impacts individuals who receive the service from the students.
- Conduct art/music/dance lessons
- Tutor, mentor or coach youth
- Assist senior citizens with their taxes
- Provide help in a homeless shelter
Students work to address the organizational mission or social challenge rather than working directly with with the clients.
- Create a marketing plan for an agency
- Assist with an agency’s social media
- Organize a fundraising event
- Restore historic structures or building low-income housing
- Remove invasive plants and restoring ecosystems in preserve areas for public use
Educating others about topics of public interest–projects that aim to create awareness and action on some issue that impacts the community.
- Plan and host public forums on topics of interest in the community
- Conduct public information campaigns on topics of interest or local needs
- Produce a PSA or documentary raising awareness about an issue
- Work with elected officials to draft legislation to improve communities
- Design and display posters highlighting cause and need for action
Gathering and presenting information on areas of need–projects that find, gather, and report on information that is needed.
- Conduct longitudinal studies of local bodies of water; water testing for local residents
- Conduct research to protect endangered species
- Map state lands and monitoring flora and fauna
- Conduct focus groups
- Conduct energy audits in public buildings
Models of Service*
“Pure” Service Learning
Discipline-Based Service Learning
Problem-based Service Learning (PBSL)
Capstone Service Learning Courses
Service Learning Internships
Undergraduate Community-Based Action Research
*Adapted from Heffernan, Kerrissa. Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. RI: Campus Compact, 2001 pp. 2-7, 9.
Genuine Community Needs
- Students engage the community as partners
- Identify needs and avoid making assumptions as to what is best for those being served
- This process helps students:
- Understand the project's beneficiaries
- Strengthens relationships between students and the larger community
- Generates service activities with a tangible impact
Connections to Learning Objectives
- Service learning doesn't merely supplement existing curricula; it plays an integral role in the learning process
- Practitioners carefully tie projects to specific learning objectives, often connecting multiple subjects
- Learning becomes experiential and applied, deepening students' understanding of the material, how it's used, and why it's important
- Students are active partners with strong voices in identifying community needs and planning service activities
- Play an active role in the evaluation of the project and its impact on the community
- Empowers students to take control of their learning, develop leadership skills, and take their places as valuable, decision-making members of their communities.
- Throughout the process, reflection is the key to growth and understanding
- Students use critical and creative thinking to ensure that the learning makes sense and has meaning for them
- Reflection activities can be used to assess where students are in the learning process, help them internalize the learning, provide opportunities for them to voice concerns and share feelings, and evaluate the project
- A common starting point for reflection is having the students ask themselves the following questions:
- What? (What did we do?)
- So What? (Why does it matter?)
- Now What? (What is the next step? What were the effects of our project? What can we do to continue the work we began?)
Center for Service Learning Library
Resources are available in hardcopy in the CSL and can be checked out by contacting us at 785-864-0960 or email@example.com. Feel free to come by our office and browse the literature library.
Workshops and Events
Whether you are a novice are very experienced with the service learning pedagogy, CSL provides workshops, consultations, and events geared to enhance your course.
CSL provides periodic updates on external funding and faculty development opportunities related to service learning and civic engagement via a faculty listserv. Contact Amanda Schwegler if you are interested in being added to this listserv.
Teaching Reflective Writing–Otis College of Art and Design
Video explaining reflective writing that can easily be applied to service learning or any of your courses.
Structured Reflection–Campus Compact
The Campus Compact website offers numerous useful resources, including the above link on using reflection in your course.
Service Learning Reflection Journal and International Service Learning Reflection Journal–Purdue University
Academic tools created to help students with service learning and community engagement assignments and projects.
10 Tips for Designing Reflection–Patti Clayton [pdf]
Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education–Learn and Serve Clearinghouse [pdf]
Deal Model of Critical Reflection–Patti Clayton [pdf]
*Adapted from "What is Service Learning?" by the National Youth Leadership Council
CSL is committed to helping faculty and instructors integrate service learning into their course objectives. Whether you are new to service learning or you want to improve what you have already been doing, the following resources will be a great start.
- Faculty Toolkit for Service Learning in Higher Education [pdf]
- A Practical Guide to Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Classroom [pdf]
- Principles of Good Practice for Service-Learning Pedagogy [pdf]
Ways we can help
Contact us to set up an appointment.
Assistance with Community Partnerships
We can help identify potential community partners or facilitate meetings with representatives from community organizations. Making this arrangement one semester in advance allows enough time to fully explore mutually beneficial working relationships and best ways to achieve academic outcomes.
Professional Development Workshops and Events
We offers a lecture series and events (roundtable discussions and workshops). Such structured events can help you create partnerships with community organizations and take away new ideas and resources.
Review Sample Syllabi
To gain a better idea of how service can work in your course, feel free to peruse sample syllabi of courses submitted by KU faculty as well as a clearinghouse of syllabi from Campus Compact.
Please contact Amanda Schwegler, firstname.lastname@example.org, to be added to this listserv.
Resources are available in hardcopy in the Center's library. To check out any of our books or journals, contact us at email@example.com or at 785-864-0960.
Service Learning Steps to Success for Faculty
- Which areas of the curriculum could best benefit from real-world experience?
- Identify what your class has to offer.
- What can your students do to advance the mission of a non-profit organization?
- Consider the kinds of service learning in which you’d like to participate.
- Will students be integrated into established volunteer processes, or will you work with the organization to define a project?
- Student reflection on service is critical for learning. What reflection tools will you assign?
- Getting started is often the hardest part. Begin with simple projects, then build.
- Get to know your community partners.
- Community needs for service must be community defined.
- Discuss goals and challenges early.
- Address learning goals for the students and service goals for the organization.
- Assign service requirements of 20+ hours per student. Your students will experience more, and the agency will get a better return on their investment.
- Work with the organization to define the student assignment, supervision, and reporting.
- Students will be more motivated if they have choices and a role in planning their involvement.
- Make sure students understand and respect the responsibilities associated with volunteering.
- Many organizations rely on good volunteers to function.
- Determine how you and your partner organization will evaluate and/or document student service.
- Keep evaluation and documentation measures simple.
- Ask students and the organization what is working and what is not.
- Discuss with your community partner what improvements could be made for a better collaboration.
- Community organizations cannot always fulfill student needs for hours and may have to turn away students seeking last-minute volunteer opportunities.
Integrating and Assessing Service Experiences
Service learning experiences not only help students apply what they are learning in class, but can challenge their values, biases, and assumptions as well as help them shape their identities as citizens.
The first points to consider when incorporating service is that students need to know what service learning is, the intended outcomes or the purpose of their service, and what to expect from their experiences.
These resources will give you ideas about what to include in your syllabus as well as how to integrate ideas of civic responsibility.
- Constructing a Service-Learning Syllabus
- The Practice of Civic Responsibility–A Practical Guide for Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum
Assessing Civic Responsibility
- AAC&U Civic Engagement Value Rubric
- Assessing Civic Responsibility–A Practical Guide for Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum
- Assessing Service Learning & Civic Engagement: Principles and Techniques
A broad overview of issues related to assessment in higher education, with specific application for measuring the impact of service-learning and civic engagement initiatives on students, faculty, the institution, and the community.
By Sherril B. Gelmon, Barbara A. Holland, Amy Driscoll, Amy Spring, and Seanna Kerrigan.
Contact us to check out a copy.
Assessing Program Risk Issues
Integrating service learning into curricula involves various logistical considerations, and KU faculty and instructors are responsible for taking care to minimize risk for the participating students. While students are responsible for themselves outside the classroom as they carry out assignments, instructors should administer due diligence, as outlined below, while creating a project, determining student orientation and supervision, and planning transportation.
(Unless otherwise noted, the following information was adapted from a risk management guide by Duquesne University.)
1. Creating a Safe Service Learning Project
Even when the students become volunteers for another agency, the instructor should be familiar with the service site and monitor student progress. Consider the steps below to outline potential student risks and mediate those risks.
- What policies and procedures are in place at the agency to protect their staff, volunteers and service-learners from risks due to contact with agency clients?
- What are the potential risks to service-learners of having contact with agency clients?
- Will students ever work unsupervised with clients?
- In what areas of the agency property is risk higher for students? Certain areas of facilities could be “off-limits” to students without agency supervision.
- What are the potential risks to service-learners of traveling to and from their homes, the campus, and the agency?
- Is public transportation accessible?
- Are escorts needed or provided for staff, volunteers, or service-learners to safely travel from the agency to public transportation, parking lot, etc.?
- What are the potential risks to agency staff and clients of having student service-learners on-site, and how might they be minimized?
- What are the existing requirements for staff and volunteers at the agency? For example, do they need to be fingerprinted, have criminal background checks, and be tested for tuberculosis or other communicable diseases?
- Does the community agency cover insurance for volunteers?
- How is confidentiality of students, agency staff, and clients assured? Are there policies in place for confidentiality?
- Are pictures or video allowed?
- What is the scope of work the students will do? Most often, harm occurs when people involved in service-learning work outside of their intended scope.
- What are the risks if students exceed the scope of the agreed-upon project: to the student; to the clients of the agency; to the University; to the agency?
If students work beyond the scope of the project, any harm incurred is not the liability of the University or agency. If an agency staff person asks students to perform work outside of the scope agreed upon, students should decline the request. If a student requests that the agency allow him or her to work outside of the project scope, the agency can evaluate that request but agrees at the agency’s risk.
- What are procedures and policies unique to the community-based setting? (For example, are criminal background clearances required? Are there confidentiality agreements needed? Must students sign-in and sign-out of the facility?)
- What preparation should students have before working in this setting? (For example, preparation might include client-specific training, cultural sensitivity training, confidentiality training, etc.)
- When will this preparation occur? Moreover, who is responsible for offering the resources necessary for preparation?
- What are the procedures if an incident or injury should occur?
- Work with agency staff to identify risks and mediation procedures specific to this partnership/project.
- Inform students of the risks associated with the partnership/project and the identified mediation procedures through:
- In-class orientation (described in section 2)
- On-site orientation (described in section 2)
- How will you remind students to take necessary precautions each time they are at their community-based site?
- How will you confirm with agency staff that they will take agreed-upon precautions each time they host students?
2. Determining Student Orientation and Supervision
Each service learning course should incorporate two types of orientation: in-class and on-site. In-class orientation helps the students best fulfill their roles as volunteers and understand the relationship of the service work to the course learning outcomes. On-site orientation allows the community partner to explain their mission and any site-specific requirements and considerations.
- As applicable, discuss the partner organization's mission, services, and clients
- Explain the course's learning objectives and how they tie to the planned service
- Describe any necessary steps for student service (application, interview, background checks)
- For students selecting or initiating their own service, require a Student and Agency Service Agreement to be turned in at the beginning of the project. This contract shows that both the student and the agency have agreed upon the service that the students will be undertaking.
- Unless the organization where the student will be volunteering already has an established service hours tracking system, require that your students complete a timesheet for you.
- Site tour and staff introductions.
- How students check in and/or sign in when they arrive.
- Rules students should follow for their own safety and to protect organizational staff and clients.
- Procedures students should follow in the case of accident or injury.
- Agency and faculty contact information the student can use during the span of their service.
3. Planning Transportation
Transportation to service efforts should be the responsibility of the student. Liability for faculty increases when transportation is organized for the students. When organized transportation is required, KU General Counsel prefers that "University employees drive Motor Pool vehicles for mandatory field trips. The State Auto Liability Insurance policy will provide primary coverage for employees' cars being used, but a student driver's own insurance is primary coverage for claims involving the student driving his or her own car." - from the KU General Counsel FAQ page
State and University Policies that Relate to Service Learning Risks
- Kansas Tort Claims Act: Per Kansas Statue 75-6109, state employees are indemnified against damages as long as they act within the scope of their employment, cooperate in good faith in the defense of a claim or action, and aren't found to have acted or failed to act because of actual fraud or malice. "As a State employee you will receive legal representation by an attorney without cost to you, and any judgments are paid by the State for lawsuits about actions within the scope of your employment." - quoted from the KU General Counsel FAQ page
- Kansas "Good Samaritan" Law: Per Kansas Statute 60-3601, unpaid volunteers working for a nonprofit organization that maintains general liability insurance are not liable to third parties for their actions "unless . . . [the volunteer's] conduct constitutes willful or wanton misconduct or intentionally tortious conduct." While the volunteer is not personally liable, the nonprofit organization is liable for "damages caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of its volunteer[s]."
- KU Human Subjects Policy states that, "Researchers whose project is sponsored in any way by the University of Kansas or conducted by anyone connected with the University of Kansas (this includes all Lawrence Campus students, faculty, administrators, and other employees) whose research involves interviews, observation, surveys or any other form of information gathering about humans, either as individuals or members of groups" must obtain approval by the Human Subjects Committee-Lawrence (HSCL)." Exceptions can be made for "accepted and established service relationships between professionals and clients where the activity is designed solely to meet the needs of the client."
- KU Health & Safety Policy states, "All faculty members and others involved in instructional and/or research programs are responsible for seeing that the students in their courses and laboratories are properly trained and educated about applicable safety and health policies and practices prior to exposures to instructional or research hazards." This policy also states, "All University-related facilities, activities, and programs shall be designed, conducted, and operated in a manner which reasonably protects human health and safety. Adherence to these principles is necessary in order for the University to achieve its mission of providing quality instruction, research, and services."
- KU General Counsel, regarding transportation, states: "Preferably, have University employees drive Motor Pool vehicles for mandatory field trips. The State Auto Liability Insurance policy will provide primary coverage for employees' cars being used, but a student driver's own insurance is primary coverage for claims involving the student driving his or her own car." - from the KU General Counsel FAQ page
Service Learning Do's and Don't
- DO provide campus- and community-based organization orientations to familiarize students with policies, procedures and risks involved in the specific service activities they will be providing and with the populations they serve.
- DO discuss Learning Plans with students so they fully understand their responsibilities, learning objectives and service objectives, and are informed of the risks associated with their service-learning placements. Students should sign the Learning Plan, and have their site supervisor(s) and faculty member review and sign it as well.
- DO build a working relationship with your risk manager and contracts and procurement officer.
- DO conduct site reviews before, during and after a service-learning course is offered.
- DO understand that faculty members can be individually named in lawsuits and should play an active role in ensuring safe and positive service-learning experiences for their students.
- DO know that faculty members will be indemnified and protected by the university/state in the case of a lawsuit, so long as the faculty member was acting within the scope of his or her work.
- DO offer alternative placements and/or opportunities for students in service-learning courses to avoid potential risks.
- DO meet the special safety needs of any student.
- DO be aware that there are state and federal regulations regarding fingerprinting and background checks for those students whose service-learning placements are in organizations that works with children, the elderly, or persons with disabilities.
- DO know when each student is scheduled to provide service and be able to verify that the student did provide the service at the community-based organization site. This will help to determine who holds liability for student behavior or student injury at any given time.
- DO know where emergency contact information for students is kept, and what the procedures are at the university and at the community-based organization site if an emergency occurs. If the community-based organization asks the student for emergency contact information, a copy should be kept at the university for the duration of the service-learning experience.
- DON’T assume that students are automatically covered for liability through the university or community-based organization when they enroll in courses and participate in service-learning activities.
- DON’T assume that campus and site orientations are consistent; they vary among courses, campuses, departments and community-based organizations.
- DON’T assume that students are aware of such issues as liability or sexual harassment policies. Both campus and site orientations are necessary to familiarize students with any potential risks involved with service-learning activities.
- DON’T assume that student fees will automatically absorb incidental costs for fingerprinting and background checks, or that the community-based organization will pay these fees. They can be an additional financial burden for a particular placement.
- DON’T arrange travel for students. Liability is greatly reduced if students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the service site.
- DO include a description of the service as an expressed goal.
- DO include a description of the nature of the service placement and/or project.
- DO specify the roles and responsibilities of students in the placement and/or service project.
- DO include whether or not the service project/experience is mandatory. If it is mandatory, offer an alternative for students who cannot do, for any reason, the specific type of service you have identified.
- DO include time requirements (20 hours total per semester).
- DO include community-based organization contact information.
- DO identify the needs of the community that will be met through this service placement.
- DO explain how students will be expected to demonstrate what they have learned in the placement, such as journals, term papers, and in-class presentations.
- DO include an explanation of what will be evaluated and how it will be evaluated. (In terms of the course grade).
- DO explain how the course assignments link the service-learning placement to the course content.
- DO require a Learning Plan for each student that defines the scope of service to ensure the faculty member, student and site supervisor meet educational objectives, create measurable outcomes, and understand the risks inherent in the particular placement.
- DO explain, if appropriate, the expectations for the public dissemination of the students’ work.
- DON’T distribute a syllabus that doesn’t clearly explain or define the service-learning goals, objectives, criteria and requirements.
- DON’T wait until the beginning of the quarter/semester to determine with which community- based organization to partner. Plan ahead.
- DON’T allow students to randomly select their sites for service-learning placements.
- DON’T allow students to complete their service in only one or two sessions, but rather distribute the service over a consistent period of time.
- DON’T wait until the end of the term to clarify the reflective process for student evaluation and learning outcomes.
- Provides a rewarding, transformative teaching tool,
- Offers exciting perspectives on the course subject,
- Underscores faculty efforts to teach course content in diverse settings,
- Integrates theory and practice,
- Provides new opportunities for scholarship, funding, and recognition,
- Connects your knowledge and expertise with the needs of your community,
- Can initiate relationships with other members of your community, and
- Keeps teaching and learning fresh.
Service learning can connect traditional academic rigor to this existing passion for civic engagement. It shows students the complexity and applicability of course material, teaches responsibility and cooperation, and motivates students through the chance to help others. Professors, like their students, take satisfaction in making a difference.
- Apply course content to real-life situations,
- Advance their academic goals,
- Clarify their personal and career goals,
- Gain practical experience valued by employers,
- Help meet real community needs,
- Obtain a deeper understanding of complex social issues,
- Strengthen their sense of social responsibility,
- Learn to use reflection to gain meaning from experience,
- Learn to understand and respect cultural differences and commonalities, and
- Use their time and talents to make a difference.
Another way to find a service partner is to explore collaboration with community or neighborhood groups you are already familiar with or, through them, learn of others. Also, talk with other faculty who teach service learning courses. The Roger Hill Volunteer Center is another great Lawrence resource.
- Collaboration with a community partner in preparing the service learning components of your course
- Guiding and assisting your students as they participate in service learning
- Building an ongoing relationship with sites where your students had positive experiences
- Sharing your evaluation of and observations about your experience teaching a service learning course with others, including your colleagues and the Center for Service Learning
Students will have questions about service learning, so use resources on this site, on campus, and elsewhere to educate yourself and your students. Students will also need guidance in choosing a service site, coordinating plans with the site supervisor, and clarifying learning objectives. Students may need guidance on how to take experiences from their service to turn them into knowledge, and this is where group and individual reflection activities fit into the service learning course.
This can take place in the form of any type of guided reflection: journal entries, papers, discussions, and presentations. If the format is clearly outlined, then students are graded on both content and technical skills as they would be with any other assignment.
Reflection should also be included during class discussions. This creates a learning situation for all students (as well as the faculty member). Issues that arise may be important to more than one person. These discussions are often great learning opportunities.
While students are responsible for both the service and the learning, your assistance in the reflection process will help increase their understanding. Your assignments and the questions you ask will be critical in helping them connect their experiences inside and outside the classroom to the learning objectives you’ve set for your course.
- If service learning is mandatory in a course, some students may complain or drop the class. On the other hand, if the project is optional, few or no people could take the opportunity.
- Each professor must make sure that the service learning project will fit into reasonable time limits and should consider replacing something in the course with the service learning project.
- Students may have difficulty finding time to do service outside of class. A student may not be able to commit to a certain day or time for community service. Flexibility is the key element here, as is close collaboration with students and community partners.
- There may be some legal issues with liability to consider. Students should not be placed in a site where they are likely to injure someone or get injured. If a professor is concerned about a liability issue, he or she should contact the college administration.
Reliability -Volunteers play an essential role in many understaffed and under-financed community partner organizations. Students must understand that people are counting on them to meet their scheduled commitments.
Sensitivity - Many service learning projects involve students working with people whose backgrounds and experiences are very different from their own. Participants must be very sensitive to the needs and feelings of their partners in the learning experience. Service learning is built upon the concept of mutual learning and respect between all participants.
Ethical Conduct -Students are expected to follow the rules and regulations commonly observed at the service learning site. These include observing the dress code, using good judgment, etc.
Confidentiality - Information concerning various aspects of the community partner organization, including clients, patients, or others, are often covered by strict rules of confidentiality. Supervisors will guide students affected by obligations of confidentiality.
Observations of Unethical Behavior - Students observing possible unethical or illegal conduct should not try to address these situations individually. They should immediately consult with their supervisors or instructor.
Stress - Service learning students often work in settings outside their known environment (e.g. in situations of poverty, illness, and great human need). What they see may be intrinsically sad and depressing. Students should be made to feel that they can discuss feelings with supervisors, professors, or service learning staff to ensure a healthy balance in their lives.
Safety - Students should discuss personal safety issues with supervisors and follow the instructions and procedures of professionals who work in these situations daily.
The following is a list of some of the community organizations that have partnered with KU faculty and students on service learning projects:
Assistant Professor, Accounting and Information Systems
While the student enthusiasm for the class’ service learning component has been incredible, the biggest response has been from the AIS Advisory Council. Our alumni and supporters have been quite moved by our students’ efforts to provide tax assistance in the community, in Kansas, and across the nation.
Assistant Professor, Sociology
In my classes, service-learning means that students are required to perform community service for twenty hours over the course of the semester, at a list of pre-selected sites. In addition, they must write up field notes and reflections after each community service experience and write a paper based on their service experience at the end of the term. Service-learning is much more than volunteering in the community; it is learning through experience and reflection. Through service-learning, students work with community members who do not walk the halls of privilege, except perhaps to clean or repair them. Students’ interactions with community members not only teach them to value the people they may have failed to notice before, but also teach them to question their position in the social hierarchy, turning their skills of critical analysis inwards. Most of all, students realize how much they have yet to learn and how much the world around them has to teach them.
In my class we talk about many different issues related to equity in education. When students actually put those ideas into practice through service learning, they come to better understand the impact that they can have on the world around them. As future educators, my students are hopeful about the role they will play in shaping the lives of others. But a service learning opportunity makes that hope a reality for them now, while also letting them see the practical constraints to doing this work.
Professor, Applied Behavioral Science
Service learning has enriched my life as a professor, my students’ lives, and the people with whom my students work in the community. For thirty years, undergraduate students in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science (the KU Program in Human Development and Family Life) have been able to participate in a senior practicum in a program called the Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program. Recognized as a model program, KU undergraduate students receive instruction and supervised experience that allow them to participate in real-world work in the human service field and to gain the satisfaction of knowing they made a difference in a child’s or youth’s life. Most of these KU undergraduate students go on to work in the human service field or attend graduate or law school and subsequently report that it was this service learning opportunity as an undergraduate at KU that impacted their lives in meaningful ways. So why is service learning important? Service and learning are life long endeavors that change people’s lives. Instilling in our undergraduates not only knowledge and skills but also the understanding and compassion that come from helping others will undoubtedly be our key to a better future!
James A. Sherman
Professor and Former Chair, Applied Behavioral Science
Our undergraduate program provides practicum/service learning experiences for all majors. Thus, students not only learn about the principles of learning and how these principles have been used to help solve human problems, they also get direct experience in helping solve human problems. In the practicum/service learning course that I supervise, for example, undergraduate students spend two semesters teaching children with autism. The students teach children with autism a wide variety of skills: to follow simple instructions, to imitate behaviors demonstrated by their teachers, to identify and label objects and people, to talk to children and adults, and to play with other children. In essence, my service learning practicum in autism provides opportunities for students to test in real life the relevance of what they have previously learned through discussion and reading and to see immediately the direct effects that they can have on the life of a young child who needs their help.