Principles of Best Practice in Service-Learning

  1. The two primary aims of service-learning should be to offer an intellectually rich educational experience for students and to address a significant community need.
  2. The service-learning project should be well-integrated into the course content, so that students clearly see the relationship between the project and the academic goals of the course. They should also be able to understand why the experience has intellectual value.
  3. Adequate in-class time should be allocated for the students to share, discuss, and analyze their service-learning experiences with other students in the class and with their professor.
  4. The time commitment for completing the service-learning project and students' reflection on it should be flexible, appropriate, and in the best interests of everyone involved: students, faculty, and community partner.
  5. Structured opportunities for analysis should be incorporated into the course requirements so that students may reflect critically on their experiences.
  6. Students should receive some instruction in how "to read experience as a text" so that they learn to isolate pivotal experiences and analyze their significance. It is important to remember that while most students have been schooled and are quite skilled in interpreting the written word, they are much less adept in understanding how to analyze experience. Students should also receive guidance in connecting the “text” of their experience to the other texts in the course, allowing their experience to illuminate or challenge their other readings.
  7. Faculty should recognize that creating a viable service-learning project with a community partner takes time, commitment, and an understanding of the partner's point of view.
  8. The community partner, not the faculty member, should identify what the community needs and the goals to which it aspires.
  9. Collaborations between faculty and community partners are key to creating a service-learning project that is both intellectually rich and provides a real service to the community.
  10. Final results of the service-learning project should be shared by the students with the community partner. End-of-the-semester oral presentations have been especially useful in bringing everyone involved in the project together. It is also a good way to celebrate the project's completion.

Source:  Adapted from Mount Holyoke College