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  • Principles of Good Practice

Academic Service-Learning

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  • Principles of Good Practice in Combining Service and Learning 

    An effective and sustained experience:

    1. Engages people in responsible and challenging actions for the common good.
    2. Provides structured opportunities for people to reflect critically on their service experience.
    3. Articulates clear service and learning goals for everyone involved.
    4. Allows for those with needs to define those needs.
    5. Clarifies the responsibilities of each person and organization involved.
    6. Matches service providers and service needs through a process that recognizes changing circumstances.
    7. Expects genuine, active, and sustained organizational commitment.
    8. Includes training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition, and evaluation to meet service and learning goals.
    9. Insures that the time commitment for service and learning is flexible, appropriate, and in the best interest of all involved.
    10. Is committed to participation by and with diverse populations.

    Ellen Porter Honnet and Susan J. Poulson. Wingspread Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning. The Johnson Foundation. 1989. 

    Principles of Good Practice for Service-Learning Pedagogy  

    • Principle 1: Academic Credit Is for Learning, Not for Service
      Academic credit is not awarded for doing service or for the quality of the service, but rather for the student’s demonstration of academic and civic learning.
    • Principle 2: Do Not Compromise Academic Rigor
    • Principle 3: Establish Learning Objectives
      It is a service-learning maxim that one cannot develop a quality service-learning course without first setting very explicit learning objectives. This principle is foundational to service-learning.
    • Principle 4: Establish Criteria for the Selection of Service Placements
      Requiring students to serve in any community-based organization as part of a service-learning course is tantamount to requiring students to read any book as part of a traditional course. Faculty who are deliberate about establishing criteria for selecting community service placements will find that students are able to extract more relevant learning from their respective service experiences, and are more likely to meet course learning objectives.
    • Principle 5: Provide Educationally-Sound Learning Strategies To Harvest Community Learning and Realize Course Learning Objectives
      Requiring service-learning students to merely record their service activities and hours as their journal assignment is tantamount to requiring students in engineering to log their activities and hours in the lab. Learning interventions that promote critical reflection, analysis, and application of service experiences enable learning. These activities include classroom discussions, presentations, and journal and paper assignments that support analysis of service experiences in the context of the course academic and civic learning objectives.
    • Principle 6: Prepare Students for Learning from the Community
      Most students lack experience with both extracting and making meaning from experience and in merging it with other academic and civic course learning strategies. Therefore, even an exemplary reflection journal assignment will yield, without sufficient support, uneven responses.
    • Principle 7: Minimize the Distinction Between the Students’ Community Learning Role and Classroom Learning Role
      Classrooms and communities are very different learning contexts. Each requires students to assume a different learner role. The solution is to shape the learning environments so that students assume similar learning roles in both contexts.
    • Principle 8: Rethink the Faculty Instructional Role
      Commensurate with the proceeding principle’s recommendation for an active student learning posture, this principle advocates that service-learning teachers, too, rethink their role. An instructor role that would be most compatible with an active student role shifts away from a singular reliance on transmission of knowledge and toward mixed pedagogical methods that include learning facilitation and guidance.
    • Principle 9: Be Prepared for Variation in, and Some Loss of Control with, Student
      Learning Outcomes
    • Principle 10: Maximize the Community Responsibility Orientation of the Course
      One of the necessary conditions of a service-learning course is purposeful civic learning. Designing classroom norms and learning strategies that not only enhance academic learning but also encourage civic learning are essential to purposeful civic learning.

    Excerpted from Howard, Jeffery, ed., Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning: Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, University of Michigan: OCSL Press, Summer 2001, pp. 16-19

    Service-learning is an effective pedagogical tool through which students:

    • experience a positive impact on their problem analysis, critical thinking, cognitive development, and understanding of academic subject matter
    • report stronger faculty relationships than those not involved in service-learning, and improved satisfaction with college, and therefore retention
    • enhance their sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills
    • reduce stereotypes and increase cultural and racial understanding
    • develop their leadership and communication skills
    • experience positive effects on interpersonal development & the ability to work with others

    Material gathered from Introduction to Service-Learning TOOLKIT. Providence, RI: Campus Compact