Steps for a Successful Service Learning Course
- Designate your course as a service learning course when submitting your course schedule or by notifying the Registrar's office.
- Identify and contact a community partner at least one semester before you plan to teach your service learning course.
- At the beginning of the semester, submit a copy of the Service Learning Agreement and Emergency Contact Information Form to the Coordinator of Community Engagement in the Center for Community Engagement.
- At the end of the course, distribute the Service Learning Student Surveys to your students and turn into the Center for Community Engagement.
- At the end of the course, complete the online Service Learning Faculty Report form.
How to Develop Effective Partnerships
- Identify appropriate community agencies and partners where students can provide a service and achieve academic and civic learning objectives. Depending on the needs of the agency and their capacity to host students, you may need to select more than one agency for your class.
- Make an appointment to meet with the agency volunteer coordinator or primary contact who will set up the service component in the agency. Be sure to discuss at least the following topics:
- The mission of the agency and your work as an instructor
- How the partner would like to be recognized in any publications or media attention the partnership may generate (Note: this is typically an afterthought, but an important aspect for preserving relationships)
- The types of resources the service will require, if any (e.g. access to a computer, tools, etc.)
- The roles and responsibilities required to facilitate the service experience (including orientation sessions, training, and supervision)
- Share a copy of the course syllabus and what you want students to get out of their service to help create the context in which students will be providing service.
- Involve the community partner in planning and evaluating the structure of the service-learning experience. You are already asking them to serve in a co-educator role by virtue of assigning students to work with them. It will help your students if both of you are on the same page regarding the purpose of the service and the expectations of the students.
- Invite your community partner(s) to campus to discuss with your class the mission of the agency, as well as the clients they serve and the services they provide.
- Discuss issues of transportation. Transportation to service sites is an important consideration for your students, particularly if they do not have a car on campus.
- Have your students complete the Service Learning Agreement and Emergency Contact Form with their community partner before beginning service. The form is available here and should be filed with the Coordinator of Community Engagement at the beginning of the semester.
- Check in with your community partners via phone or e-mail (depending on their preference for communication) throughout the semester to identify any concerns before it is too late! Two weeks after the students begin service, send them the link to the Initial Feedback from Community Partners Form.
- Invite your community partner to listen to students' reflections or to view their final projects related to their service sites.
- Ask your partner for their evaluation. At the end of the semester, the Coordinator of Community Engagement will send your community partner the online Service Learning Community Partner Survey form. How did the partnership work for them and their staff? This evaluation shows partners that they are valued and gives feedback on whether students' efforts helped to serve their mission.
Standards for Service Learning Syllabi
Learning Objectives – Is the service component linked to both academic and civic learning objectives?
Introduce the service learning component in teh description of your course and define what it is so students understand how it is academic in nature.
Articulate how the service experience will enhance their understanding of the course content and materials.
Articulate the approximate number of hours students will be expected to serve and the names of the organization(s) they may serve.
Include a schedule for reflection and service learning based assignments.
Explain how service learning reflection assignments will be assessed.
Include a statement regarding the importance of high quality service as students represent their instructors and Mercer University.
Reflection: The critical component of successful service-learning programs is "critical analysis and reflection". Critical analysis and reflection describe the process of deriving meaning and knowledge from experience and occurs before, during and after a service-learning project. Effective critical analysis and reflection engage both teachers and students in a thoughtful and thought-provoking process that consciously connects learning with experience. It is the use of critical thinking skills to prepare for and learn from service experiences.
University of Minnesota Reflection Guide
Service Learning: Using Structured Reflection to Enhance Learning from Service
Reflection in Service Learning:Making Meaning of Experience