What Makes a Stellar Service Learning Curriculum?

    Posted: July 27, 2016

    Below we detail the essential elements that have gone into creating our service learning course curriculum.

    Download the full curriculum here: GVI Service Learning Curriculum

    Pre and Post-departure readings:

    Setting up the service learning experience and ending it with an open ended invitation to continue developing global competency and awareness are key elements of creating a successful course. Prior to international travel, students will engage in material that helps them develop awareness surrounding the country that they will be traveling to, the philosophy behind service learning, and a foundational look at global engagement.

    Upon returning home the curriculum is structured in order to inspire and promote continued engagement in global development. Students will celebrate the success of their course, reflect on challenges encountered along the way, and develop strategies for continuing both local and international involvement.

    Community Driven on the Ground Involvement:

    All service learning courses are designed around hands on involvement in either a critical sustainable development project or vital conservation work. This might involve refurbishing a community centre to hold women empowerment workshops in Nepal, teaching English classes in Costa Rica, or collecting data on clownfish populations in Mexico.

    Service Learning is a type of experiential education, meaning learning that is done outside of the classroom. However, the key distinguishing factor of service learning is that the work being done is based on local needs and has reciprocal benefits for the students and the community.

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    Further Reading : Defining International Service Learning

    Diverse Educational Activities:

    When it comes to more typical forms of education a service learning curriculum is still incredibly varied. In addition to carefully selected readings students will also engage in lectures presented by local experts in the field, research and reflection papers, daily journal writing, interactive group presentations, and research collation and analysis.

    Structured Reflection Sessions:

    A key component to a service learning course is daily reflection sessions that are built into the structure of the day. Reflection will be varied and might take place in a group setting, through a written medium, or in partner shares. Reflection sessions will be guided by a facilitator but lead by the students. Reflection is the crucial connection which synthesizes students’ educational experiences with their on the ground experiences.

    Further Reading: Effective Refection 

    Emphasis on Soft Skill Development:

    A good service learning course focuses on developing, and creating awareness around the development of, vital soft skills. Soft skills are essential elements of personal development, but can be hard to foster within individuals through traditional educational structures. By providing a more holistic learning experience students develop skills such as: teamwork, self-confidence, leadership, empathy, and communication.

    Further Reading: Importance of Soft Skills 

    A Balanced Review Structure:

    Monitoring the work and progress of each student allows on the ground experts to provide valuable feedback specific to each individual. Students will be graded across four carefully selected criteria including; class participation, worksheets, reflection journals, and their final research paper. Constant feedback plays a valuable role in aiding reflection and keeps students accountable for their own educational growth during the entirety of the course.

    Think a service learning course might be a good fit for you and your students? GVI is a multi-award winning international Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.