Service learning is a method of teaching that combines classroom instruction with meaningful community service. This form of learning emphasizes critical thinking and personal reflection while encouraging a heightened sense of community, civic engagement, and personal responsibility. The Community Service Act of 1990, which authorized the Learn and Serve America grant program, defines service learning as:
"a method under which students or participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community; is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program, and with the community; and helps foster civic responsibility; and that is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students, or the educational components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled; and provides structured time for the students or participants to reflect on the service experience." 
Service learning offers students immediate opportunities to apply classroom learning to support or enhance the work of local agencies that often exist to effect positive change in the community. The National Youth Leadership Council defines service learning as "a philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards." 
"Service learning is a method of instruction in which classroom learning is enriched and applied through service to others” (Florida Department of Education).
“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes.” (Jacoby, Service-Learning in Higher Education, 1996)
- 1 Key components
- 2 Origins of Service-Learning
- 3 Service learning concepts
- 4 Comprehensive Action Plan for Service Learning (CAPSL)
- 5 Objections to Service Learning
- 6 Learning in Service-learning
- 7 Reflection in Service Learning
- 8 Citizenship in Service-Learning
- 9 Community-engaged writing
- 10 The Effects of Service Learning
- 11 Service Learning in Language Education
- 12 Supporting programs
- 13 Strong Service-Learning Program Characteristics
- 14 Christian Theology and Service-Learning
- 15 Critical Thinking in Service-Learning
- 16 Notable people
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Further reading
- 20 External links
- Curricular connections- Integrating learning into a service project is key to successful service learning. Academic relations should be clear and build upon existing disciplinary skills.
- Student voice - Beyond being actively engaged in the project itself, students have the opportunity to select, design, implement, and evaluate their service activity, encouraging relevancy and sustained interest. In community settings, this is alternatively called youth voice.
- Students discussion - Students discuss their learning experience during in-class discussions.
- Reflection - Structured opportunities are created to think, talk, and write about the service experience. The balance of reflection and action allows a student to be constantly aware of the impact of their work.
- Community partnerships - Partnerships with community agencies are used to identify genuine needs, provide mentors, and to work towards completing a project. In a successful partnership, both sides will give to and benefit from the project. In order for this partnership to be successful, clear guide lines must be implemented as to how often a student engages in service to a particular community agency.
- Authentic community needs – Local community members or service recipients are involved in determining the significance and depth of the service activities involved.
- Assessment - Well structured assessment instruments with constructive feedback through reflection provide valuable information regarding the positive 'reciprocal learning' and serving outcomes for sustainability and replication.
In 2008, the National Youth Leadership Council released the K–12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice that used research in the field to determine eight standards of quality service-learning practice. The standards are:
- Meaningful Service
- Link to Curriculum
- Progress Monitoring
- Project Design
Further, to distinguish high quality from low quality service-learning experiences, Youth Service California has published the "Seven Elements of High Quality Service Learning"  that include:
- Integrated Learning
- High Quality Service
- Student Voice
- Civic Responsibility
Origins of Service-Learning
Two philosophies have been instrumental in the formation of service-learning: progressivism and pragmatism. John Dewey and William James popularized these ideas with influence from Socrates, John Locke, Confucius, and many others. Using these philosophies, service-learning becomes a practice combined with learning, or learning while practicing.
Progressivism is a philosophy that can be applied to various fields, including education and politics. However, this section deals with this philosophy in relation to education. Progressive education, also called “experiential education”, emphasizes experience in the educational process and encourages students to learn in a hands-on manner. John Dewey, one of the most outspoken proponents of progressive education, observed that students tend to learn and retain information more effectively when they learn through a cycle of action and reflection. His views differed significantly from the prevailing educational approach, which required students to absorb information and reproduce it for a test. He understood that learning and doing are intimately connected and that allowing students to personally experience what they are learning greatly improves the quality of their learning experiences.
John Dewey also advocated democracy in education. In applying democratic concepts to education, he emphasized the rights of the student and argued that the students should have at least some degree of influence over what they study. He believed that when students are permitted to study topics that are particularly interesting or relevant to them, then they will be more motivated to learn, which leads to greater productivity and efficiency. He sought to move the focus off the subject matter and onto the student.
The word “pragmatism” originates from the Greek word “pragma,” which means “action”. Pragmatism connects thoughts or ideas with action. Pragmatists argue that knowledge is useless to students unless they can directly apply it to the new situations they encounter. In short, knowledge without action is worthless. Therefore, teachers should present new information in the context of situations to which it applies and give their students ample opportunity to practice actively applying that new knowledge to concrete, real-world situations. Pragmatists believed that this approach would greatly increase the value of students’ education by making their knowledge relevant, practical, useful, and actionable in real-life situations.
Combining these philosophies, service-learning becomes a practice. It encourages students to use their talents, ideas, and gifts to serve, and while performing the service, to learn. Furthermore, by engaging students’ bodies and emotions, as well as their minds, in the learning process and ensuring that the learning is relevant and contextualized, service-learning results in a superior learning experience that few educational approaches can equal.
Service learning concepts
What is service learning?
Service-Learning is an educational approach that balances formal instruction and direction with the opportunity to serve in the community in order to provide a pragmatic, progressive learning experience. Service-Learning must properly connect the traditional classroom experience with the real life lessons that come through service. Proper S-L approaches will provide a series of exercises to allow students to reflect on their service experiences in order to grow in character, in problem-solving skills, and in an understanding of civic responsibility. Many colleges and universities now embrace the concept of Service-Learning as a legitimate and beneficial means to engage students in their learning experience. Although Service-Learning approaches may differ greatly from place to place, it should allow participants the opportunity to effectively learn through the practical experience of serving the community in one way or another.
According to a popular book on the subject by Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr, “Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning?”, there are numerous benefits to the Service-Learning approach. It provides experiential learning that connects personal and interpersonal development with cognitive and academic advancement, providing opportunities for personal connections and ultimately transformation. Those serving may encounter certain social problems for the first time, thus transforming their view on the world. Beyond that, students may be transformed in the way of developing better problem solving skills to address those problems about which they now know. A Service-Learning experience may be the catalyst in the life of a student to dive into the complexities of the social issues they have encountered and to seek to develop innovative solutions.
As Defined by Robert Sigmon, 1994:
- Service-LEARNING: Learning goals primary; service outcomes secondary.
- SERVICE-Learning: Service outcomes primary; learning goals secondary.
- service learning: Service and learning goals completely separate.
- SERVICE-LEARNING: Service and learning goals of equal weight and each enhances the other for all participants.
In this comparative form, the typology is helpful not only in establishing criteria for distinguishing service-learning from other types of service programs but also in providing a basis for clarifying distinctions among different types of service-oriented experiential education programs (e.g., school volunteer, community service, field education, and internship programs)
Various Types of Service-Learning Plans
The Florida Department of Education. Florida Campus Compact. has published Standards for Service-Learning in Florida: A Guide for Creating and Sustaining Quality Practice. which states the four following types of service learning
1. Direct Service Learning:
Person-to-person, face-to-face projects in which service impacts individuals who receive direct help from students (tutoring, work with elderly, oral histories, peer mediation, etc.).
2. Indirect Service Learning:
Projects with benefits to a community as opposed to specific individuals (i.e., environmental, construction, restoration, town histories, food and clothing drives).
3. Advocacy Service Learning:
Working, acting, speaking, writing, teaching, presenting, informing, etc., on projects that encourage action or create awareness on issues of public interest (i.e., promoting reading, safety, care for the environment, local history, violence and drug prevention, disaster preparedness).
4. Research Service Learning:
Surveys, studies, evaluations, experiments, data gathering, interviewing, etc., to find, compile, and report information on topics in the public interest (i.e., energy audits of homes or public buildings, water testing, flora and fauna studies, surveys).
The Equal Benefits of Service Learning
Service learning, as defined by Robert Sigmon , “occurs when there is a balance between learning goals and service outcomes.”  As follows, there are various methods of hands-on learning that fall into this category, these include:
Volunteerism: Volunteerism is acts of service performed out of free will without expectation of recompense and is generally altruistic in nature; the main beneficiaries (at least in a visible sense) are generally those served by the student.
Community Service: Community service is quite similar to volunteerism, the main difference being that it is said to “involve more structure and student commitment than do volunteer programs.” 
Internships: Internships can provide students with experience in various fields of work; however, unlike volunteerism and community service, students gain a more measurable benefit from this aspect of service learning.
Field Education: Field education, like internships, is generally more materially beneficial to the student. Field education involves programs that, “provide students with co‐curricular service opportunities that are related, but not fully integrated, with their formal academic studies.” 
The purpose of service learning is, in essence, to, “equally benefit the provider and the recipient of the service as well as to ensure equal focus on both the service being provided and the learning that is occurring.” Volunteerism, community service, internships, and field education all exemplify, in some way or another, the core value of service learning, as all of them benefit the student as well as the one they served to an equal degree, the only difference being how material the benefit is. These methods, also tend to focus on ensuring that the student not only serves, but learns something, whether it is people skills, work experience in their future field, or a change in how they view themselves and others.
Comprehensive Action Plan for Service Learning (CAPSL)
- CAPSL Identifies four constituencies on which a program for service learning needs to focus its principal activities: institution, faculty, students, and community.
- CAPSL also identifies a sequence of activities (Planning; awareness; prototype; resources; expansion; recognition; monitoring; evaluation; research; institutionalization )to be pursed for each of the four constituencies(institution, faculty, students, and community).
- CAPSL provide a heuristic for guiding the development of a service learning program in higher education.
- Advantages of CAPSL : it is general enough that the execution of each cell can be tailored to local conditions.
- Disadvantages of CAPSL: it is not possible to detail how each step can be successfully accomplished to take the sequence of activities from the whole CAPSL model and apply it to any cell in the matrix.
Objections to Service Learning
Although service learning has broad support among contemporary academics, there have been some objections to this approach to education. Towson University Professor John Egger, writing in the Spring 2008 issue of the journal "Academic Questions", argued that service learning does not really teach useful skills or develop cultural knowledge. Instead, Egger maintained, service learning mainly involves the inculcation of communitarian political ideologies. Tulane Professor Carl L. Bankston III has described his own university's policy of mandating service learning as the imposition of intellectual conformity by the university administration on both students and faculty. According to Bankston, by identifying specific types of civic engagement as worthy community service, the university was prescribing social and political perspectives. He argued that this was inconsistent with the idea that individuals in a pluralistic society should choose their own civic commitments and that it was contrary to the ideal of the university as a site for the pursuit of truth through the free exchange of ideas. Another objection to service-learning is the relevance of the service project to the material being learned. If service-learning is to be considered a valid contribution to an education of an individual, its relevance has to be legitimate. The educational value of the service-learning lies in the fact that students are implementing what they learn in a classroom environment by solving real-world problems. If there is no connection between what students are learning in the classroom and the service projects they are completing, then the educational value of the service-learning is diminished. Conversely, if the students complete a hands-on project that incorporates topics and skills learned in the classroom, but it fails to solve a real problem in the community, then the value also diminishes. The most effective service projects are well-researched and designed to fit the needs of the community. It is easy for people to come up with a solution to a problem that does not exist just for the sake of doing a service project. Ideally, students involved in service-learning should implement the information base they have built in the classroom to investigate potential problems that can be solved in the community. Once they have an understanding of the problems and potential solutions, they can use critical thinking skills to plan their project. In this way the project will have both educational and practical value. Service-learning can only be considered a valid part of education when there is a strong link between the material learned in the classroom, and the service project being completed.
Learning in Service-learning
Experiential and hands-on learning is a major factor of service-learning. As well as the academic benefits, service-learning aims to furnish students with knowledge that will help them better understand the world. Janet Eyler, in the book “Where's the Learning in Service-Learning?”, outlines the different ways student learn through service-learning. First there is interpersonal learning, in which students reevaluate personal values and motivations by channeling a passionate interest to service-learning projects, as well as build a connection and commitment to the community. The second form is academic material that is taught through practical application and reflective instruction, so that it may be practiced outside classrooms and test-taking. On pg 16, Janet Eyler explains, “it is the product of continuous challenge to old conceptions and reflection on new ways to organize information and use the new material.” Thirdly is cognitive development where students are challenged to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in a context that provides additional information and experience for student evaluation, because service-learning deals with numerous problems in complex situations. The fourth form is transformation within the students, which “is about thinking about things in a new way and moving in new direction—creating a new picture without relying on the old lines.” Finally, service-learning focuses on effective citizenship and behavioral issues, and this helps the students better understand social issues relevant to their own community. Learning in all these ways makes service-learning effective to those serving as well as those being served, and “learning begins with the impact service-learning on the personal and interpersonal development of the students.”
Reflection in Service Learning
An essential feature of Service-learning programs, reflection is a period of critical thinking performed by the student. For many advocates of the pedagogy, reflection may symbolize the learning that occurs in the student. Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles provide an example of this opinion in their book, "Where's the Learning in Service-Learning?" when they state: "learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection, not simply through being able to recount what has been learned through reading and lecture." Also, the National Service Learning Clearinghouse considers reflection to be a "core component" of service-learning.
It is largely during times of reflection that students achieve greater personal development by coming to a better understanding of their own values, opinions, and assumptions. For some students, the period of reflection may even be a time for them to reassess their goals or even their life's direction. In addition, reflection is the essential tool to integrate the experiential or service-learning activities with academic concepts, helping students to see the connections between theory and practice. For these reasons and others, some higher education programs require a reflection component in their service-learning classes. The University of Minnesota is one such institution that includes required reflection activities with its service learning classes.
Reflection may occur spontaneously, but many service-learning programs include either guidelines or specific requirements for structured reflection. Also, reflection may be done individually or as a group activity. Wartburg College in Indiana published a list of reflection activity suggestions on their website. These included various types of journaling, brainstorming as a group, using quotes, writing essays and papers, structured class discussions, and class presentations among other ideas. However, little research has been conducted to discover the optimum amount or type of reflection activities that would be the greatest benefit for students.
Planning Reflection in Service-Learning
If service-learning is to be effective, plans must be made in advance for students to reflect on what they are learning. It is important that this time be both structured enough for significant learning to take place, and relaxed enough that students feel they can speak honestly.
When students know they will be expected to reflect on their experiences, they tend to be more attentive to their experiences while they are experiencing them, thus allowing for more intelligent observations. There are many types of reflection that should be implemented throughout the course for optimal learning and self-observation:
- Reflection on Personal Growth
- Reflection on various biases and stereotypes
- Reflection on Spiritual Growth (if applicable)
- Reflection on leading skills
- Reflection on relational skills
- Reflection on knowledge gained
- Reflection on effectiveness of service-learning itself
One of the most popular models for reflection has been Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL)’s model, “What? So What? Now What?” This model encourages students to reflect on not only what they have done, but why it matters, and how it will change the way they act.
Encouraging Honest Reflection
In many cases, students have felt they could not speak honestly about their learning experience, the main reason being the pressure of being graded on their reflection. One student said, “…if we’re in a room and it’s all the student leaders and their professors who are grading them, we’re not going to be honest… Obviously we’re all going to say that it’s a great experience.” It is important that students are aware that their honest criticism is worth as much – if not more – than their dishonest praise.
Citizenship in Service-Learning
Community contributions help people learn and give. In fact, an ability to contribute to one's community is an important and inherent result of the service-learning process explain Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. in their book Where's the Learning in Service-Learning? Such a reality can be effectively summarized in a single sentence: Students learn through service and in the process automatically give to their communities; or in one word: citizenship. In their book, Eyler and Giles discuss what they call "The Five Elements of Citizenship" which describe how one should think of citizenship. The first element is values, the idea that "I ought to do." When a person effectively gives to their community, it comes from a sense of "I ought to do this; this task is my responsibility." Knowledge, the idea of "I know what I ought to do and why," is the second element of citizenship. Here, because one already knows he ought to do it, he knows what he is doing and has a legitimate reason for doing it. The next logical element is skill. In order for a person to complete what he knows he should do, he has to be equipped to do it. That is the third element. The fourth element, efficacy, is the idea that "I can do something, and it makes a difference." Once one knows he should do it, why he should do it and how do it, he needs to determine that it is useful and will positively impact their community. Finally, the fifth element of citizenship is commitment. "I must and will do it." Commitment is the box in which everything previously mentioned is packaged. Ultimately, without a decisive "will-to-do-it" commitment, values, knowledge, skills and efficacy are not useful. Because service-learning directly links to community contribution, students who participate in service-learning are effectively engaging in real citizenship.
Community-engaged writing is a method of getting students to write toward and about public problems and issues. A variety of approaches are used by instructors, depending on age group of students and theoretical approach. Two illustrative/related summaries follow.
In “Literacy as Violence Prevention,” Ena Rosen, Associate Director of Need in Deed, describes a specific example of the teaching methods of Need in Deed, a Philadelphia-based education agency. This newsletter article is based on an anecdotal set of reports on an eighth grade teacher’s work with one classroom in 2005. Rosen’s purpose is to promote the effectiveness and work of Need in Deed, and Rosen ultimately shows that this method of working with urban youth is an effective teaching method and social intervention: “Meaningful service that addresses a root cause and meets an authentic community need: the best of service-learning and civic engagement” (Rosen).
In “Rogue Cops and Health Care: What Do We Want from Public Writing?” Susan Wells argues that writing teachers should not merely have students write within classrooms on socially relevant issues, such as gun control. She uses Habermas’s definition of the public sphere to analyze an example of a “citizen” attempting to enter the public sphere through discourse—President Clinton’s speech on health care reform—and ultimately demonstrates the failure of that effort. However, Wells contrasts Clinton’s failed strategies to get health care reform passed with a more local example of a Temple student who successfully entered the public sphere by writing a citizen’s complaint about his arrest and subsequent beating by a Philadelphia police officers. Wells concludes by suggesting four alternatives for writing teachers interested in helping students move their rhetoric into the public sphere: classroom as one type of public sphere itself, analysis of public and academic discourses, writing with and for public/community needs, and analysis of academic discourses as they intervene in the public sphere.
Rosen, E. (2006). Literacy as violence prevention. Retrieved March 2, 2011, from Need in Deed: http://needindeed.org/static/LiteracyAsViolencePrevention.pdf Wells, S. (1996). "Rogue cops and health care: What do we want from public writing?". College Composition and Communication, 47 (3), 325–41.
The Effects of Service Learning
Based upon various studies, students who participate in Service Learning Courses or Projects seem to encounter a multitude of benefits. The book Where's the Learning in Service-Learning? discusses the effects of Service Learning upon students, as well service learning in general. A study by students from Bates College also reports on the positive outcomes of Service Learning in Education. It should be mentioned that the effects of service learning upon the participants vary based on their participation and their job within the project.
The actual service in service learning obviously impacts the community, but right now, our focus will be the student. According to Where's the Learning in Service-Learning?, most college students who participated in service learning, or "service learners", said that it helped them understand themselves better. These service learners also stated that it contributed to personal development and change. Almost half of them considered spiritual formation an important part of their service learning experience and said that the course helped them satisfy religious convictions. The majority of service learners received self-satisfaction from the act of assisting others in their community. In general, service learners felt more confident in their abilities such as management.
Service Learners retained more of the information they learned in their studies and were provided a sense of engagement not usually found in most classes. Beyond the classroom, service learners felt more attached to and involved in their communities. Because service learning promoted teamwork, participants developed better communication, decision making, and coordinated effort. Service Learning also fostered people's leadership abilities. Most service learners gained practical skills based upon the tasks they had in the course. For example, someone might become a talented carpenter since they built tables in a service learning project. Finally, service learners gained tolerance of people from different backgrounds and better appreciated other cultures.
Personal Transformation Service-learning
Many people leave the service-learning experience with a totally new perspective on how these students will view the world. This transformation is brought about by several different contributions throughout the service-learning process. And while social change is one of the major goals of the learner, perspective transformation is one of the greatest impacts on the student learner.
The transformation of the student through the service-learning process actually changes the way the learner views the social problem. This is key because a learner may go into a service-oriented program thinking about a social problem in one way, but when the student begins to immerse themselves within the service-learning platform their thoughts on the social issue begin to morph. The service learner’s thoughts on issues are transformed as they meet people who do not think the way they do and encounter situations they have never dreamed about before. Then the learner begins to reflect on how those differences change the heart of the social problem, and finally the reflection often leads to an adjustment of the social problem.
One important note is that not every service-learning project leads to personal transformation. It is however quality service-learning programs that lead to an alteration of the view on what type of social change is really needed. The reason that quality service-learning experiences bring these results is that place people in different situations with different people than they have been before. Another reason that quality service learning programs bring perspective change is that they require in depth reflection on the learning.
Experience Gained from Service Learning
A major benefit of participating in service-learning is the personal and professional experience gained through interactions with people and projects. Not only does such experience prepare and better equip participants for future engagements, but it will often appear favorable for job and school applications.
The personal experience gained from service-learning is often valuable and relevant in future endeavors. For example, if a person participates in a service-learning project where they became an intern at a Christian convalescent hospital, they will gain knowledge of patient conditions, witnessing opportunities, patient care, and clinic operations. If, for instance, a parent or relative needs hospice care in the future, the participant will be able to provide the care they need. In this case, the family member would be able to receive care from a person they know and trust. This is just one example of how personal experience gained from service-learning can be helpful for future situations.
The other type of experience gained by service-learning projects is professional experience. This includes skills and knowledge in fields such as teaching, engineering, linguistics, politics, and sciences. A student with this experience may be more likely to be accepted to a school or credential program than another person. A participant in a service-learning project may have a better chance at being hired to certain positions.
“Service-learning offers students the opportunity to experience the type of learning … where they can work with others through a process of acting and reflecting to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves.” With these skills in hand, participants can head into the future with a sense of preparedness. They will be able to use the experience they gathered in future activities.
Other Benefits of Service Learning
Another benefit of service learning is the self-knowledge that a participant gains. After immersion in unfamiliar cultures and settings, a student begins to observe and question things about themselves that they had previously taken for granted. When observing other cultures, a student realizes that cultural norms they had never before noticed are not universal, and this causes them to objectively reflect on their background and beliefs. This process of reflection leads to a better understanding of one’s own culture and values, and how those things have shaped the student. In addition, by experiencing and participating in challenging activities, a student discovers their strengths and weaknesses. They may discover skills and talents they did not previously know they had. Furthermore, as a student’s self-knowledge increases, so does their personal efficacy, or a student’s confidence in their abilities. By persevering and succeeding in new and difficult situations and by solving problems in the real world, a student’s belief in their capability to effect change increases. An increase in self-knowledge and an increase in personal efficacy have both been proven to result from participation in a service learning program. However, studies have shown that the level of care taken in choosing a program, the relevance of the real-world work to the accompanying class work, the amount and quality of personal reflection, such as journaling, the amount of ethnic diversity encountered in the project, and the perception that the project is helping a genuinely felt need in the community, are all factors in the amount of self-knowledge and personal efficacy felt by the student.
Effect on Engineering Education
Many engineering educators see service learning as the solution to several prevalent problems in engineering education today. In the past, engineering curriculum has fluctuated between emphasizing engineering science to focusing more on practical aspects of engineering. Today, many engineering educators are concerned their students do not receive enough practical knowledge of engineering and its context. Some speculate that adding context to engineering help to motivate engineering students’ studies and thus improve retention and diversity in engineering schools. Others feel that the teaching styles do not match the learning styles of engineering students.
Many engineering faculty members believe the educational solution lies in taking a more constructivist approach, where students construct knowledge and connections between nodes of knowledge as opposed to passively absorbing knowledge. Educators see service learning as a way to both implement a constructivism in engineering education as well as match the teaching styles to the learning styles of typical engineering students. As a result, many engineering schools have begun to integrate service learning into their curricula and there is now a journal dedicated to service learning in engineering. Recent work has also proposed that the use of open-source appropriate technology could be useful for integrating service learning into the engineering curricula.
Effects on the community
Much of the research on the effects of service-learning is focused on what students learn through their service to the community; fewer studies have been conducted on the impact of service-learning on the communities where the students serve. Several studies that have been done on this topic measure the impact of service-learning on the community organizations with which college students volunteer, seeking to understand the organizations' perspectives on service-learning.
One positive impact of service-learning on these organizations is the presence of more volunteers, which enables the organizations to accomplish more and to serve more clients. Students can use specific skills they possess to benefit the organization, and can be a source of new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm. Through partnering with a college or university, the organization can gain access to new knowledge and opportunities to connect with other organizations that have partnered with the same school.
However, these organizations face challenges in working with the students. Communication with faculty is often inconsistent, so organizations do not always understand their roles and the roles of the faculty in students’ service projects. Some organizations’ representatives stated that faculty assigned students projects that were not allowed in their organization. Often the demographics of students do not match well with the demographics of the clients they serve, which can make it difficult for the students to relate to the clients or create an uncomfortable situation for the clients. The academic calendar students follow tends not to work well with the organizations’ schedules, since students’ volunteering schedules are interrupted for holiday breaks, finals, and other activities. Also, the small number of hours students are required to spend volunteering can cause problems for organizations and their clients. Some organizations require more hours for volunteer training than students are required to volunteer, and making a personal connection with clients only to break it off soon after can be more hurtful than helpful.
Representatives of community organizations where service-learning students volunteer expressed interest in working with colleges and universities to change service-learning programs so that they work more smoothly for the organizations. Their suggestions included establishing more consistent communication between faculty and organizations, creating longer-term partnerships between colleges and community organizations, and ensuring that the students and their projects are matched well with the organizations they serve.
Service Learning in Language Education
Service learning can be used in all standard disciplines and recently has been explored for use in improving language instruction. A recent study found that integrating environmental issues with foreign language study provides significant opportunities for students to increase their language proficiency, develop their understanding of concepts related to the environment, and become more involved in a global community through a virtual service learning project. Similar work has found that students can contribute to sustainable development while improving their language skills.
There are a number of substantial national efforts in the United States that promote service learning in its myriad forms. They include the following organizations:
The State Education Agency K–12 Service-Learning Network (SEANet) is a national network of professionals committed to advancing school-based service-learning initiatives in K–12 schools and school districts all across the country (seanetonline.org). Our members are directors, coordinators, specialists, or other staff working in a State Education Agency (SEA), or in an organization designated by a State Education Agency, who provide leadership in their respective states for the advancement of school-based service learning. They promote, develop, and expand school-based service learning to K–12 schools and school districts; they provide direct assistance in the form of technical support and professional development opportunities to local school-community partnerships; and they administer and disseminate the annual K–12 school-based state formula grants from Learn and Serve America, the primary federal funding source for service learning.
Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (NSLC) provides the world's largest database of Service-learning materials, electronic resources, and job listings. It supports and encourages service learning throughout the United States, and enables over one million students to contribute to their community while building their academic and civic skills. This organization instills an ethic of lifelong community service; supports and encourages service learning throughout the United States, and enables over one million students to contribute to their community while building their academic and civic skills. By engaging our nation’s young people in service learning, Learn and Serve America instills an ethic of lifelong community service.
National Service-Learning Partnership is a national network of members dedicated to advancing service learning as a core part of every young person's education. Service learning is a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity. The Partnership concentrates on strengthening the impact of service-learning on young people's learning and development, especially their academic and civic preparation.
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation fosters academic service learning in higher education with awards and grants to students/faculty and their 501(c)(3) community partners who demonstrate best practices or innovative approaches in the field. These programs can be found at  The Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur grant program seeks to motivate students to develop innovative service-learning projects by providing $1,000 grants to the community organization partner of the student with the most innovative proposal in a state-wide or school-wide competition. ServiceBook sponsored and maintained by JRCPF, is the online community for academic service learning. JRCPF programs have been held in 16 U.S. states, India and the United Kingdom.
The Leadership, Ethics, and Social Action Minor at Indiana University-Bloomington focuses on civic participation, community decision-making, and citizenship skills: how to communicate and organize and lead while serving as a citizen. The LESA program is a chance to develop your own voice and interests while you research, serve, and take action in the community. A student who enjoys thinking and working independently and who would like to develop his or her professional presentation through serving the needs of the community will find opportunities to do so with LESA. Pre-professional students who wish to be involved in a community setting are attracted to the program. Pre-law and pre-med, as well as pre-business, students find opportunities to develop their professional presentation.
A partnership between Youth Service America, America’s Promise Alliance, and State Farm Companies Foundation launched GoToServiceLearning. It is recognized as a resource for teachers seeking to learn how to incorporate service-learning into their lessons. GoToServiceLearning.org is an interactive Web site housing a database of quality service-learning lesson plans from across the country, all tied to state academic standards.
Strong Service-Learning Program Characteristics
The strength or weakness of a service-learning program can heavily influence the amount of learning done by a student. There are several characteristics that are present in strong service learning programs. Some of these include high quality placements, quality reflection, and diversity.
High quality placements are a key to the success of a service-learning program. This requires the service learning establishment to have a broad network of connections within the community. Students need to have a positive connection with the establishment they’re serving in order to maximize their learning.
Yet another critical piece to a well-built service-learning program is quality reflection. The reflection process should include discussion with other service-learning students and faculty. These talks often help students formulate application for their learning experience. Effective service-learning programs also include required written reflection. Not only does writing permanently record a student’s service-learning experience, but it also provides a helpful tool for continued reflection long after the program has been completed. Written reflection assignments also require students to stop, think, and articulate their learning. This evaluation is of incredible value to students.
Diversity is also a component of a successful service-learning program. By working with people of different ethnicities, lifestyles, and socioeconomic statuses, a student’s learning and tolerance will increase. By serving in a diverse environment, student are more likely to reduce stereotypes and increase their cultural appreciation. This can help a student learn how to more effectively serve a broader array of people.
The stronger a service-learning program, the more learning will occur in students! Those developing service-learning programs should focus on incorporating as many of these positive characteristics as possible.
Christian Theology and Service-Learning
Some college students, when reflecting on their service-learning experience, placed religious reasons as some of the most important things they acquired. In the book, “Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning?” Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. wrote, “Although fewer students chose spiritual growth as an important outcome of service-learning—20 percent selecting it as among the most important things they learned and 46 percent selecting it as very or most important—it was important to many students…Some saw service as a definite opportunity to fulfill their religious commitment.” 
Serve God by Serving Other People
According to the Christian Holy Bible, God made all people in His image; therefore, humanity has many characteristics and responsibilities to God, to humanity, and to the earth. One responsibility toward humanity is to help other people who are in need, and to not let people suffer, as far as it is possible. Christians look to their Savior, Jesus, who came to earth to serve, as their role model. For this reason, Christians use service-learning experiences to become better community members. To them, service-learning is not just a moral activity; it is a way to serve God by serving other people.
The first commandment that Jesus gave in the Holy Bible was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” The second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus instructs those who love him, to obey him. To obey him, they must love him and love others. A very practical way to show love to other people is by acts of service. “Jesus gave a simple but profound illustration of expressing love by an act of service when He washed the feet of His disciples. In a culture where people wore sandals and walked on dirt streets, it was customary for the servant of the house to wash the feet of guests as they arrived.” In this Bible passage describing when Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, Christians learn that they must serve others like Jesus served his disciples. The significance of the historical importance of what Jesus did is the fact that usually servants wash the mud-caked feet of guests. Because Jesus got down on his knees to wash the feet of his followers, it shows Christians that they must be humble and considerate to show love through service. Christians who choose to do a Service-learning project are obeying Jesus by serving others.
Bringing Glory to God by Serving Others
In 1 Peter 4:1-11 it is clear that God has given Christians gifts that they must use to glorify God by serving others. Service-learning students are encouraged to choose a project that they have interest in. Not only does this choice help students achieve a better understanding of a career path they may want to pursue, it gives Christians an opportunity to use the gifts God has given them to glorify Him through service. The truth of today's world is that many people want nothing to do with God or the Bible; they are consumed with their own struggles and issues. By serving and coming alongside others to help them with their problems, Christians put themselves in the most influential position possible. Not only does Service-learning help a Christian reflect on one's own convictions and passions, but it humbly puts others ahead of themselves, an action Jesus Christ displayed consistently in His life on earth. Whether he was feeding a multitude of listeners or healing a blind man, Jesus was always looking for opportunities to help others, because He knew the impact it had on people's lives. The ultimate glorification of God is expanding His Kingdom, and Service-learning is an easy way to do exactly that.
Service-Learning in the Bible
The Holy Bible gives much precedent for Christians on the topic of service-learning; placing it as a high priority among other Christian activities. For example, James 1:27 explains, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The book of James also argues much against being religious while not acting out their faith. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” The Christian believes that the ultimate display of their faith is to reflect God's nature in one's actions. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, displaying all of God's attributes in human form, so Christians use His life on earth as an example of how they should live. Mark 10:45 says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  This shows Christians that service, not being served, should be their ultimate purpose while on this earth. One might argue that glorifying God is a Christian's ultimate purpose, but as discussed in the previous paragraph, the two go hand in hand.
Critical Thinking in Service-Learning
Service-learning might have an effect on critical thinking skills. The less students know about a subject, the quicker they are to come to conclusions and “solutions” to the problem. But the more they work with and experience the problems of their service area, the more they realize that community problems are “ill structured” i.e. it isn’t all black and white; there is no end- all, long term solution. This forces a student to think critically and find solutions that can solve part of the problem, or solve the problem for the time being. After service-learning, students tend to react slower to problems, thinking them fully through before deciding on a solution. King and Kitchener’s Reflective Judgment Model also shows that there are seven stages of reflective judgment. Students who participate in service-learning are able to grow and mature into higher levels of reflective judgment. Students have found that although their critical thinking skills improve, finding solutions doesn’t get easier. “The less you know about an issue the easier it is,” (p. 117). According to Astin and Sax (1998) community service is significantly linked with critical thinking. It also helps students understand and solve social problems. The quality of the community service-learning program also affects critical thinking and problem solving skills. For instance, service-learning with high levels or discussion had a positive impact on critical thinking ability. Communication was helpful in maturing problem solving skills. When students were in highly integrated service-learning projects, their critical thinking skills at the end of the semester were better than they had been at the beginning of the course.
- History of Service-learning
- American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
- Campus Compact
- Cooperative education
- Global Leadership Adventures
- Learn and Serve America
- Lifeworks International
- National Service
- National Service Learning Conference
- National Youth Leadership Council
- Youth Service America
- Public Sphere Pedagogy
- 42 U.S. Code 12511
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- Perez, Shivaun, "Assessing Service Learning Using Pragmatic Principles of Education: A Texas Charter School Case Study" (2000). Applied Research Projects. Paper 76. Texas State University. http://ecommons.txstate.edu/arp/76
- Youth Community Service
- Furco, A.(1996) Expanding Boundaries: Serving and Learning, Florida Campus Compact.
- Retrieved from http://www.fsu.edu/~flserve/resources/SL%20Standards%20for%20SL%20in%20FL.pdf
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- Deep Ministry in a Shallow World
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- Janet Eyler & Dwight E. Giles (2007). Where’s the Learning in service-Learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 129–150.
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- Eyler and Giles, Janet and Dwight E. (2007). Where's the Learning in Service Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 35–36, 38–41. Check date values in:
- International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering
- Joshua M. Pearce, Teaching Science by Encouraging Innovation in Appropriate Technologies for Sustainable Development, Proceedings of the 11th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference, pp.159-167, 2007.
- Joshua M. Pearce, Appropedia as a Tool for Service Learning in Sustainable Development, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 3(1), pp.47-55, 2009.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 47. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
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- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 31. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Vernon, Andrea; Ward, Kelly (1999). "Campus and Community Partnerships: Assessing Impacts and Strengthening Connections". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 6 (1): 30. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 35–36. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Barrientos, Perla. "Community Service Learning and its Impact on Community Agencies: An Assessment Study". http://www.sfsu.edu/. San Francisco State University. p. 5. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 49. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Vernon, Andrea; Ward, Kelly (1999). "Campus and Community Partnerships: Assessing Impacts and Strengthening Connections". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 6 (1): 33. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 36. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 55–56. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 37. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Barrientos, Perla. "Community Service Learning and its Impact on Community Agencies: An Assessment Study". http://www.sfsu.edu/. San Francisco State University. p. 11. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 54–55. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Vernon, Andrea; Ward, Kelly (1999). "Campus and Community Partnerships: Assessing Impacts and Strengthening Connections". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 6 (1): 33. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 39. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 52. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Sandy, Marie; Holland, Barbara A. (Fall 2006). "Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships". Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 13 (1): 34, 37, 40. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Tryon, Elizabeth; Stoecker, Randy (September 2008). "The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service-Learning". Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (3): 56–57. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Eleanor ter Horst and Joshua M. Pearce, “Foreign Languages and Sustainability: Addressing the Connections, Communities and Comparisons Standards in Higher Education”, Foreign Language Annals 43(3), pp. 365–383 (2010). 
- Joshua M. Pearce and Eleanor ter Horst, “Overcoming Language Challenges of Open Source Appropriate Technology for Sustainable Development in Africa”, Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, 11(3) pp.230-245, 2010.
- Learn and Serve America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse Official website
- Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation Programs
- ServiceBook from the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation
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- [dead link]
- The Leadership, Ethics, and Social Action Minor at Indiana University (Bloomington)
- Janet Eyler & Dwight E. Giles (2007). Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 167-170
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- "Mark 10:27".
- "John 14:15".
- "Acts of Service Love Language".
- "Mark 10:45".
- "1 Peter 4:10".
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- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A17&version=NIV. Retrieved 5 May 2014. Missing or empty
American Service Learning Programs
- Service Learning in Omaha - UNO's Annual Three Days of Service
- Lifeworks International, global community service and adventure programs for high school students
- Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Medical Service Learning
- Examples of service-learning in higher education
- National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
- National Society for Experimental Society
- Global Works - Service Learning and Cultural Exchange based Adventure Programs for High School Students
- Bonner Foundation
- Warren Wilson College Service Program
Asian Service Learning Programs
Canadian Service Learning
Jewish Service Learning
- Organizations: Repair the World and SULAM Center
- Research and studies about Jewish Service learning on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @NYU Wagner