Service-learning is a teaching methodology that enables students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to meaningful service to the community.
Each semester, my Physiological Psychology students complete a two-part project in which they apply their knowledge to the community through acts of service. The project is meant to be simple but powerful. Students volunteer for organizations twice during the semester and follow both with short papers in which they 1) link physiological concepts to their experiences, then B) propose three physiologically-founded improvements.
What is Service-Learning?
From ASU's SL Website: Through structured critical reflection activities, students analyze their service experience as it reciprocally applies to their academic and career development. Service-learning presents a unique and enriching learning and personal growth experience for students while strengthening communities by addressing unmet community needs.
Service-learning benefits students by:
Enhancing understanding of academic curriculum
Providing diverse and practical “real-world” experiences
Encouraging community involvement
Fostering civic responsibility
Raising awareness of social justice issues
Providing career-exploration opportunities
The goal of service-learning is for students to gain a greater understanding of content knowledge while becoming socially embedded citizens. Critical reflection is a key component and distinguishing feature of a service-learning experience.
Volunteering is worthwhile unpaid activity.
Community service is volunteering to fulfill an unmet community need. Participants may learn from their experiences, but not in a formal manner. The primary emphasis is on service, not learning.
Internships focus on the acquisition of job skills.
Service-learning is characterized by a deliberate connection between academic curriculum and community service. Students’ service is a component of course curriculum and becomes a vehicle for learning course material. Students reflect on their service, relate it to coursework, and evaluate what they are learning. Service-learning also provides students the opportunity to hone job skills. College credit is earned for the academic coursework, not the service itself.
Anonymous Course Evaluation Comments:
"At first I was apprehensive to the whole assignment. It sounded a bit intense, as the course carried on I felt more and more prepared for the assignment. I absolutely loved the assignment and feel it 100% made me take this class out of a text book and apply it to the world around me."
"Overall, this was an enjoyable experience. I got to interact with a lot of really cool families, eat a lot of popcorn and watch one of my childhood favorites. The days before this opportunity, I was feeling pretty down and stressed from a number of different things but being able to meet and socialize with all these friendly people really boosted my mood and helped me stabilize myself. Observing all the kids playing and living life so carefree has really led me to start considering what ways I can get my mindset back to a similar state as when I was younger, even if life is a million times more stressful now."
"I think it’s a wonderful thing to implement in courses in general and I hope more courses do so, I’ve enjoyed stepping out and applying my knowledge towards helping others, it makes what we do in class more memorable and worthwhile."
"I used to volunteer all the time in high school and, due to my own mismanagement of time/priorities, I stopped volunteering once I hit college. Having this assignment force me back into the volunteering world was amazing. I had forgotten how much I loved it and didn't realized how much I missed it until now. Thank you for that."
"I liked the fact that the assignment required us to see how the content really does apply to the real world. The content isn't just an academic section to study, but a real-life experience that people go through every day."