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Service-Learning Resources

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning... what does it mean anyway?

It is a term that most of us are familiar with but it is also one that is hard to find an exact definition for that everyone can agree on. Below are a few definitions that are commonly used in higher education to help us understand the basics of Service-Learning.

"Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."


"Service-learning is 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."

Robert Bringle and Julie Hatcher, "A Service-Learning Curriculum for Faculty." The Michigan Journal of community Service-Learning. Fall 1995. 112-122.

"Service-Learning is engaging students in activities that meet human and community needs defined by the community together with structured reflection intentionally designed to meet student learning outcomes"

Barbara Jacoby

Some Examples:

  • Child Psychology students tutor children at Headstart ... while thinking about Piaget
  • History students tutor refugees in English... while thinking about historic immigrations
  • Marketing students design a marketing campaign for the food bank


How is Service-Learning different from community service, internships or general volunteering?

Community service and general volunteering primarily benefit the community.

Students engage in community service and volunteer opportunities primarily because they want to help an agency in the community or because they need to fulfill a service requirement for clubs and organizations. The benefit to the student is limited to learning how service makes a difference in the lives of the service recipients.

Practicums, internships, and co-op education are designed to primarily benefit the student.

These experiences are indeed extremely important to the learning process and help fulfill requirements for graduation by providing experience in a particular field of study. However, the student typically works in the private sector rather than for a nonprofit and may even be paid for the work. These experiences usually take place without critical reflection to tie together student experience with course material.

Service-Learning is designed to benefit both the student and the community.

The service activities meet community needs and enhance student understanding of course content. Service goals are aligned with learning objectives. The student learns to connect course theory with hands on "real world" experience through reflection activities, journals and class discussion.


  • Picking up trash by a riverbank is service.
  • Studying water samples under a microscope is learning.
  • When students collect and analyze water samples and the local pollution control agency uses the findings to clean up a river... that is Service-Learning.

[courtesy of the National Youth Leadership Council]


Longwood University Mission Statement

"Longwood University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to the development of citizen leaders who are prepared to make positive contributions to the common good of society."

It is important that we are all familiar with the mission statement of the institution we work for - as it is our job as faculty and staff to help carry out that mission through the work we do with students. Service Learning is an excellent way to help students understand "citizen leadership" and gives them personal experience with "making positive contributions".



How can the Office of Leadership & Service Learning Help?

  • Project Design - we are available to assist you in any step of the process! We can help with planning projects, contacting agencies and choosing reflective activities for your Service Learning course.
  • Classroom Presentations - contact the office anytime to request a presentation. We are happy to give an overview of service opportunities in the area, how to develop a successful service project, or even hold a discussion about why it is important to do service.
  • Reflection Sessions/Activities - contact the office if you are interested in having one of our staff lead a reflection session or activity to help your students process their experience.
  • Service-Learning Workshops or Conferences - the office periodically hosts Service Learning Workshops or attends Service Learning conferences. Please let us know if you are interested in attending a workshop or conference!
  • Volunteer & Involvement Fair - the Leadership & Service Learning Office, in conjunction with the Student Union, holds a Volunteer & Involvement Fair at the beginning of each semester. We strongly encourage you and your students to attend for the opportunity to meet our community partners and learn about new project ideas!

Resources to use in your Service Learning Classes: