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Keep in mind that service-learning is closely linked to the academic goals of a course and involves preparation, action, reflection, and assessment. That combination of components is mainly what separates service-learning from volunteerism and straight community service. Another reason the term "volunteer" really doesn't apply is that the work students do is more than likely required for the course. Service-learning differs from an internship in that service-learning work is typically done for a nonprofit agency, not a business or corporation in one’s field of study.
Service-Learning vs. Volunteering or Internships
Q: How is service-learning different from volunteerism, community service, or an internship?A: Keep in mind that service-learning is closely linked to the academic goals of a course and involves preparation, action, reflection, and assessment. That combination of components is mainly what separates service-learning from volunteerism and straight community service. Another reason the term “volunteer” really doesn’t apply is that the work students do is more than likely required for the course. Service-learning differs from an internship in that service-learning work is typically done for a nonprofit agency, not a business or corporation in one’s field of study. Also, the chart below should help to clarify the distinctions between the different types of community involvement.
Q: Should service-learning be discussed in the course syllabus?A: Absolutely! Your course syllabus must give a more detailed explanation of your expectations as a student in a service-learning course. The syllabus must include:
Q: What if I have questions about risk and liability issues for service-learning projects?A: If you or your department have questions regarding risk management or liability issues as they relate to your service-learning projects, please contact the University Attorney, Todd Powell. Office telephone: (785) 628-4233 E-mail: email@example.com
Q: How many hours can I reasonably expect my students to log outside of class?A: That depends. It depends on the scope of the project (one assignment out of many for the semester? or an ongoing semester-long project?) and on the other demands in the course. Just speaking in general, most articles mention requirements from 6 hours up to 20. Mainly, just let students know on Day 1 what their commitment will be—and let them know what adjustments you’ve made to the course to allow time for their service hours (e.g., release time from class, one less exam, reduced homework, whatever).
Q: Isn’t service-learning just a dumbing down of the curriculum, providing less academic rigor and allowing students to slide?A: Actually, the opposite is true. Within a carefully planned service-learning project, students have nowhere to hide. They either put in their hours or they don’t. They either incorporate their experience into their writing or they don’t. They either produce an acceptable, well-researched and well-written document or they don’t. Students can’t be passive learners and succeed in the service-learning classroom. As for academic rigor, the teacher is responsible for connecting the service to the academic goals of the course. Ed Zlotkowski, English professor at Bentley College in Boston, says, “If a student doesn’t become a better writer as a result of service-learning, I have no business incorporating it into my comp. class.”
Q: How do I come up with ideas for what my students can do with or for an agency?A: Ask that agency! Active dialogue with your community partners will help you meet mutual needs. Explain what you hope your students will gain (writing experience, knowledge about a specific social issue, topics for papers, whatever) and then ask the community partner for ideas. As professionals, we want to solve a problem-package that solution and hand it to the community. But it’s better to say "I don’t know" and engage in active dialogue with the community, especially with the segments of the community not currently at the table. Don’t approach an agency with an "I'm going to save the world" mentality-they’ve been working on it longer.
Q: What if it’s near the end of the semester (or the time allotted for the service-learning project) and a student hasn’t even begun to log his or her hours?A: Avoid this problem by having deadlines and deducting points accordingly for deadlines missed. For example, a writing project might have a deadline for each of the following:Decide on nonprofit agencyReflection #1 due (less than one page)Make initial contact with agencyWrite agency profile (2-4 pages)Write proposal for service work to be done (1-3 pages)Half of your hours completedReflection #2 due (less than one page)Rough draft due, with community partner’s feedbackAll hours completedFinal draft dueReflection #3 due (1-2 pages)
Q: Why in the world would I want to invest the time and energy obviously needed to try service-learning? I’m swamped already!A: Let me begin by saying that you may well not want to try service-learning. It’s not for everyone, and there certainly is a place in the curriculum for the traditional writing classroom. That said, allow me a final plug (or a few final plugs) for service-learning. I’ll begin by quoting Alice Reich at Regis University in Denver who writes that she got into service-learning “to stay alive as a teacher” (3). We teach because it’s meaningful work, yet we feel “a kind of desperate exhaustion” borne of trying to teach today’s students with yesterday’s pedagogy (4). “We begin to fear that our calling is a sentence” (5). We’re tired of “empty” writing, tired of dull students merely putting in their time and putting forth as little effort as possible.
Service-learning offers an opportunity to revitalize your teaching, and maybe even connect your teaching to your passions and interests. Whatever your "cause" - literacy, the environment, children's issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, ESL, the arts, animals, the family farm, immigrants, library funding, etc. - you can link it to service-learning. You can get your students involved as part of the solution, and enjoy the bonus of having them engaged in their topics as they write their papers.
Maybe you’re an Internet enthusiast—you could get your students involved in developing web pages for local agencies. World War II buff? Connect your students with senior citizens at the local retirement center to transcribe oral histories of wartime memories. Love photography? Get your students taking pictures to illustrate their service documents (brochures, newsletters, oral histories). You get the idea: it’s a chance to merge your outside enthusiasm with your work in the classroom.
Q: How can I go easy on myself and limit the scope of my service-learning component the first time I try it?A: Work with only one agency (or a very limited number of agencies)
Try to work with an agency near the campus—or at least one with whom you’re quite familiar.
Try service-learning for one or two assignments only, rather than designing your whole course around it.
If students are writing “for” an agency, limit the type of writing they can do. (For example, they could all write brochures on different topics—or they could write brochures on the same topic and the agency could choose the best brochure to distribute. At any rate, it’s probably easier if you don’t have a class working on brochures, newsletters, manuals, etc. all in that first semester or two.)
Have students work in teams (to limit the number of projects you end up grading so that you can put your energy for this assignment into planning and supervising).
Keep your goals and expectations realistic, given the confines of one short semester (and the busy schedules of both you and your students). Aim high, but be realistic.
“Steal” paperwork from other teachers (e.g., release forms, log sheets, etc.).
Utilize the service-learning departmental contact on the FHSU campus for ideas. (Link to dept. contacts)
Q: How does FHSU define service-learning?A: Service-learning means getting students involved outside of the classroom to enhance their learning and growth while also benefiting the community. In addition to acting outside the classroom, students must also reflect on that action. The experience is closely related to the academic goals of the class.
Faculty Toolkit for Service-Learning in Higher Education
Kansas Campus Compact
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
The Big Dummy’s Guide to Service-Learning: 27 Simple Answers to Good Questions on Faculty, Programmatic, Student, Administrative, and Non-Profit Issues
101 Ideas for Combining Service & Learning
National Youth Leadership Council
Raise Your Voice/Student Action for Change
Boise State University Service-Learning Site
Tigers in Service
International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership
Community-Campus Partnership for Health
Fort Hays State Service-Learning PowerPoint
Lynn MaskaLexey BartlettStacy SmithJoe ChretienJill ArensdorfEmily BreitCheryl DuffyJoyce EllisJean GleichsnerDarrell HamlinHayley CharlesAnn Leiker
Service-Learning Committee Meetings are the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 12:00p.m.
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