Using Service-Learning to Deepen Students’ Understanding of Course Content

Service-learning has long been an effective way to help students develop a richer understanding of a subject and also apply what they are learning in a tangible way. Bringle and Hatcher (1996) defined service learning as: “a credit-bearing, educational, experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs, and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.” Well-designed and implemented service-learning projects can have a significant impact on the undergraduate experience of our ISU students.

Because of the positive impact service-learning can have, an ad hoc taskforce of faculty, and staff from CELT and Student Organizations have been working to promote this pedagogical approach through teaching and learning circles and a service-learning faculty learning community. In Fall 2015 the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee provided guidance for academic programs on how they might include a service-learning designation in courses. Courses with this type of designation must include a requirement for students to perform volunteer or community service, and also include an assessment of the learning students have accomplished during, or as a result of, their volunteer and community service. The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee recommends adding the phrase “Assessed service-learning component.” to such course descriptions. If you or your colleagues are integrating service-learning in your courses consider adding that phrase as catalogue descriptions are revised for the 2016-2017.

Visit the CELT service-learning website for more information about service-learning and to learn about service-learning examples at ISU. For further information about the course designation contact Suzanne Hendrich (shendric@iastate.edu)