About Service Learning

Service-learning is a relatively new educational method that has met with great success in a wide range of academic settings.  It is distinguished by hands-on learning and it can be employed with students at many grade levels.  Service-learning may be defined as “service performed by students, aimed at attending to a real need of the community, and oriented in an explicit and planned way to enhance the quality of academic learning.” (Tapia, et al., 2006, p.68)  Said differently, it is a pedagogical method that takes what is learned in the classroom and from textbooks and then gives these teachings new life by relating the concepts to outside experiences and the workplace.  Although service-learning is still rather new, this novel approach to learning has given students experiences and a depth of understanding they would not have gained from the classroom method of teaching.

Service learning has grown in popularity due to a confluence of factors.  One of the greatest engines driving its growth and acceptance is the ‘Campus Compact,’ which is an agreement whereby a university president publicly commits his institution to this pedagogical method.  The following figure shows the growth in the number of university presidents who have signed the compact (www.compact.org).

Figure 1: The Growth of Campus Compact

Figure 1: The Growth of Campus Compact

We hope that this website will facilitate greater understanding of the value of service-learning and encourage others to explore its potential as an organizing concept for instruction and learning.

Reference

Tapia, Maria Nieves, et al. (2006). “Service-Learning in Argentina Schools.” Casey, Karen McKnight, et al. (eds.). Advancing Knowledge in Service-Learning: Research to Transform the Field. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

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