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Why Service-Learning?

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Why Service-Learning?. What is Service-Learning?. Service and learning are two words that alone needn’t be defined, but to put the two words together as Service-Learning , one gets a hybrid definition of both. Its meaning incorporates both knowledge and

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What is Service-Learning?

Service and learning are two words that alone

needn’t be defined, but to put the two words together

as Service-Learning, one gets a hybrid definition of

both. Its meaning incorporates both knowledge and

experience with action and responsibility, which

ultimately enhances education and develops altruistic

ideals and civic responsibility.


History of Service-Learning

The need for service organizations began in the early

1900’s when small towns and villages grew into

larger metropolises eroding the neighborhood

community network. The growing need for service

caused some individuals to respond with

community based action that eventually evolved

into a national effort.


That Was Then; This is Now

  • 88% of high schools offered a service-learning curriculum
  • 5,400,237 high school students were involved in a

service connected curriculum

  • overall growth of high school students engaged in

service-learning between 1984 to 1997 grew 3663 percent!

  • 2 million of the 6.7 million college and university students participated in service-learning
“I learned the people I served are like me”

“I learned to understand myself better”

“I learned to appreciate other cultures”


Increased confidence

Personal efficacy

Strong leadership skills

Communication skills

Listening skills

Public speaking skills

Ability to work with others

Tolerance for diversity



Dewey's "Developmental Democracy"

Service-learning - A new idea?

  • Philosopher John Dewey (b. 1859) believed education could act as a response to social problems in what he called a “laboratory for democracy.” His theory was based on the premise that “children developed the understanding, skills, and dispositions required for democratic life not only by reading about them in books, but by interacting democratically in their learning activities.”
“… when you apply what you’re learning that’s the way you really learn it… if you don’t practice it, you’re not going to learn it…”-University of San Diego student


A deeper understanding of what is learned in the classroom

The ability to use what is learned

The ability to apply knowledge to real life situations and social issues

Specific skills learned within the context of the service site.


“Service, combined with

learning, adds

value to each and

transforms both.”

-Honnet & Poulsen 1989

The role of reflection in

service-learning is to provide

the transformative link

between the action of serving

and the ideas and

understanding of learning.


“… I think the main thing that helps is that all of us in the organization, we sit down and talk about the different problems . . . We do it every Sunday . . . sit down and talk about the different things.”

-Bentley College Student

Small group discussion

Creative expression through art, role play, presentations or other types of projects

Journal writing

Methods of Reflection


Goals of Reflection

The 4 C’s: Principles of Reflection

  • Continuousreflection is an ongoing, critical reflection to be used before, during and after the experience to greater enhance learning
  • Connected reflection is the link between service and academics
  • Challenging reflection is a way in which to encourage students to engage issues in a more critical way. To ask questions and develop alternative explanations for experiences
  • Contextualized reflection is applying reflection in a meaningful way as it corresponds to the environment and situation of the experience
“All those things we had to do for service-learning. Each one successfully helped me to pull together what I’d learned. As you’re going along, you’re not really seeing what you’re learning every minute. But, when you have to pull it all together and really think about it, I think it helped me realize what had taken place.” -University of San Diego student

“Well, in my opinion. I think that what’s helpful for me is to have personal and also group reflection . . . I think there’s something really important in having a voice and sharing your opinions and ideas and bouncing those off other people.” -University of Colorado student

“After I write down my thoughts and everything, I can look back and find answers to questions that I thought were impossible to find. Like I’ve found answers to some questions just through writing what has happened.” -East Tennessee State University student

Value of Reflection

“I can honestly say that I’ve learned more in this last year in community service than I probably have learned in all four years of college. I’ve learned so much. Maybe because I found something that I’m really passionate about and it makes you care more to learn about it-and to get involved and do more.”

-University of Washington student

Service-learning motivates students to learn

it aids in personal development

helps students connect to others

helps students develop commitment to active citizenship

enhances understanding of issues and subject matter

helps students apply knowledge and skills they learn in one setting to other settings

Service-learning coupled with critical reflection helps students reframe the way they think about complex social issues

Why Service-Learning?

works cited
Works Cited
  • Eyler, Janet, and Giles, Dwight E., Jr. Where’s the Learning in Service- Learning? San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass Inc., 1999.
  • Eyler, Janet, and Giles, Dwight E., Jr. A Practitioner’s Guide to Reflection in Service-Learning: Student Voices and Reflections Nashville, TN, Vanderbuilt University, 1996.
  • Honnet, E.P., and Poulsen, S. Principles of Good Practice in Combining Service and Learning. Wingspread Special Report. Racine, Wis.: Johnson Foundation, 1989.
  • Senese, Guy, and Tozer, Steven E., and Violas, Paul C. School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Bosten, MA, McGraw Hill, Inc., 1998.
  • (still need to add Ben’s citations)