What is Service Learning?
Service learning is a type of experiential learning that engages students in service within the community as an integrated aspect of a course. Students participate in an organized service activity and reflect on that activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility.
Service Learning vs. Volunteerism
Service learning is sometimes compared with internships and clinical placements; it’s often confused with volunteer work. Some of the differences among the various forms of community outreach are as follows:
- Focus is on service; meeting identified agency or community need. Any work may be done, as long as it helps someone.
- Time commitment varies according to desires of volunteer and needs of agency.
- Supervised by agency personnel; no grade given.
- Focus is on both service and learning; meeting community need while keeping in mind goals for learning in the course. Work does not have to relate directly to learning but must not hinder learning.
- Time commitment Based on agency wishes; averages about 2-3 hours per week in Placement Model; varies in other models.
- Supervised by agency personnel; graded by professor based on a tangible demonstration of learning submitted by service learner (e.g. paper, oral presentation)
Field Work/Clinical Placements…
- Focus is on learning; practicing skills for profession, usually in helping fields such as nursing, social work, education, dental hygiene, physical or speech therapy.
- Time commitment Varies according to discipline almost always more than service learning.
- Supervised and graded either by MU clinical staff or by qualified person of given profession working in the agency.
- Focus is on learning; practicing skills for future work, e.g. public relations internship.
- Time commitment varies according to department.
- Supervised by agency person; graded jointly by agency person and professor.