This takes an hour or less, depending on whether you are familiar with service learning from having used it in another course. Bring the completed Course Planning Worksheet with you to this meeting. We’ll talk about different options for your course and go over Program logistics so you know what to expect from us throughout the semester.
If you decide to use the Placement Model for your course, we’ll help you select placements that will best fit with the content you're hoping a community experience will enhance. You may also research sites for yourself. If the kind of placements needed for your course aren't in our listing, we will either make an effort to contact them, or we may suggest that you have your students make the contacts. The amount of lead time we have will dictate how much we can do.
Each semester a number of students elect to do service learning at sites not on our list. Usually these are students who live off campus and want something closer to home; sometimes they have a prior relationship with an agency that they wish to continue. Here’s our recommendation regarding independent placements: If students wish to choose their own placement, they must first clear it with you. Don't be overly lenient on this. Unless you are satisfied that the student will be able to get a relevant learning experience from the site, he or she shouldn't be cleared to go there. A mismatched placement often leads to confusion and frustration. Our office is not able to monitor independent placements due to time constraints.
With very few exceptions, it’s preferable to offer service learning as an option. Most students don’t know they’re in a service learning course until they walk into class the first day. To spring service learning on them and then require it may lead students to drop the course or do the service with a less-than-cheerful heart. If your course is one in which community service is an integral, logical element (such as Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement), you may be able to convince students that a mandatory community experience makes sense.
There is a school of thought that says service learning should be viewed like any other course requirement, i.e. you wouldn't offer students the option of taking exams or writing papers, so why offer optional community service? While this argument has merit, the difference is that you may be asking students to do things that make them very uncomfortable (e.g. ride a city bus to unfamiliar neighborhoods, provide direct service to a population with whom they’ve had little or no prior contact, etc.). Requiring such an experience without informed consent doesn't seem wise.
However, in classes using models other than Placement (Product, Presentation, Project), where students are in groups and do most of their work on campus, we see no problem with requiring service learning.
Some of our professors offer a nice middle ground approach: They tell their students that doing service learning is the “norm” for their classes. Choosing the traditional option (research paper) is the exception.
The syllabus for the course should include a discussion of the service learning option. Under “course requirements” you may want to display a chart showing the balance between the traditional learning and service learning assignments.
In addition to the syllabus, we are strongly recommending that you write Service Learning Guidelines for your students who choose this option. Including these guidelines with the syllabus will give them the information they need to decide which learning option to select. These Service Learning Guidelines, available electronically here, are extremely important. Not only do they focus Service Learners on their LEARNING; they also enable the staff at placement agencies to better assist the students. The agency representatives have told us that more than anything they need to know what professors want and expect their students to learn. This is your chance to communicate vital information to your community partners as well as to your students.