Four Important Reasons for Educators to Choose Service Learning

    Posted: June 1, 2016

    Teaching in modern day academia is already a challenging task.  So why might you want to consider adding service-learning to your already busy teaching agenda?

    Here are a few reasons why it’s worth exploring service-learning as a new or additional teaching pedagogy.

    1. Share the Teaching Load

    In traditional teaching models, you, the instructor, are solely responsible for teaching your students.  This means that your students receive readings, lectures, grading feedback, etc. all from one source: you. In a service-learning model, you share the responsibility for teaching students with practitioners in the community.

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    As your students learn about broader issues in your classroom – for example, historical, societal, cultural, and political context – they then also challenge, test, and complement those ideas with the experiences of the individuals they meet during their service time in the community.

    While serving alongside local practitioners, they not only learn the nuts and bolts of ‘how’ to do the work, but also garner the perspectives, opinions, and lived experiences of those who are in the field. This enriches what they learn in the classroom, becoming a type of shared teaching model where you and local practitioners simultaneously teach students about complex social, political, cultural, and environmental issues through two distinct yet complementary teaching methods.

    2. Practice What They Learn

    As mentioned previously, students serving in the community also gain the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom.

    • Learning about issues related to hunger and homelessness? Through service, they’ll gain an understanding of what it takes to tackle those issues in the community.
    • Discussing environmental conservation and sustainability?  Students can get their hands dirty, literally and figuratively, as they learn the skills necessary for conservation in the field.

    The end result is a multi-pronged teaching approach that appeals to multiple learning styles, especially those who learn by doing.

    3. Mix It Up 

    Have you been teaching the same topic for a long time?  Incorporating service-learning can reinvigorate an old topic.  Considering how you might teach an existing course with newly added service components and reflection activities can breathe new life into a stagnant syllabus.

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    4. Go Deeper

    Finally, a critical component of effective service-learning is guided reflection. During reflection activities, students are encouraged to consider the how, why, and so what of their experiences as learners, volunteers, and engaged citizens.

    Facilitating reflection activities in your class helps students to put themselves in the center of their learning and consider ‘their’ role in the world, ideally leading to more thoughtful exploration of how they might approach future personal goals and professional objectives.  This can lead to a deeper, more personal type of learning than they might typically get in a traditional classroom setting.

    Want to learn more about how service-learning might work in your classroom?  Check out additional blog posts in our section just for educators!