Service-Learning provides faculty with the opportunity to engage their students in an experience that reinforces what they learn in the classroom. Students benefit from being able to meet community-identified needs as they exercise their knowledge to assist members of their community. Service-learning is set apart from community service by its nature of reflection and application of skills that one is gaining through education. By integrating Service-learning in the syllabus individuals are given this opportunity for hands-on learning and merited credit for their service.
Service-learning requires students to recognize the relevance of an academic subject by applying classroom theories, perspectives, and ideas in community settings. Students develop the ability to think critically and analyze complex social issues when they apply their coursework to a tangible community project. Through direct experience, students personalize their relationship to social responsibility and civic engagement in a democratic society. Within the framework of Carroll College’s goal “to guarantee to individuals, to groups, and especially to minorities the right to life, to personal and social dignity, and to equality of opportunity in all aspects of human activity,” service learning also provides the opportunity for students to encounter the many ways that social structures contribute to or undermine the common good.
The Benefits of Service Learning
Studies of civic engagement note that service-learning has been shown “to effect civic engagement at both the secondary and post-secondary levels” (Misa, Anderson and Yamamura 2005). As a form of civic engagement, service-learning offers benefits to all of the parties engaged in it.
The benefits for faculty include:
- an increased interest in course subject matter and engagement with classroom experience (Astin, et al. 2000)
- a positive impact on students’ understanding of course concepts (McKenna and Rizzo 1999)
- improved writing skills for students (Astin, et al. 2000)
- an increased awareness of the world (Astin, et al. 2000)
- research data for possible publication (in this case it is important to apply for review by Carroll College's Institutional Review Board as you develop the course)
- evidence of teaching effectiveness, professional development, and community service for the purposes of promotion and tenure (see The Faculty Handbook of Carroll College, Article VII, sections 2 & 3)
Benefits for students include:
- a heightened sense of civic responsibility (Astin, et al. 2000)
- a positive contribution to moral formation (Astin, et al. 2000)
- positive impacts on GPA, writing skills, and critical thinking skills (Astin, et al. 2000)
- improved engagement with peers and others at the college (Eyler and Giles 1999)
- leadership development (Astin, et al. 2000)
- valuing a career helping people (Eyler, Giles and Braxton 1997)
- an increased belief in the effectiveness of contributing to one’s community (Eyler, Giles and Braxton 1997)
- increased commitment to the political policy process (Eyler, Giles and Braxton 1997)
- more likely to recognize the relationship between social structures and injustice and to believe that improving social justice should be a social priority (Eyler, Giles and Braxton 1997)
- increased ability to view issues from other perspectives (Eyler, Giles and Braxton 1997)
- a greater ability to get along with people from different cultural backgrounds (Astin and Sax 1998)
- a higher starting salary with the first job after graduation (Matthews, Dorfman, and Wu 2015)
The benefits to Carroll College include:
- support for the College’s mission “to guarantee to individuals, to groups, and especially to minorities the right to life, to personal and social dignity, and to equality of opportunity in all aspects of human activity”
- support for Bishop Thomas’ challenge that Catholic Social Teaching serve as the “true mark of mission effectiveness” (Thomas 2013)
- positive contribution to retention rates (Gallini and Moely 2003)
- participation by alumni in service after college (Fenzel and Peyrot 2005)
The benefits to Helena community partners include:
- assistance to achieve their organizational goals including unmet needs
- contributing to students’ learning
- opportunity to increase their volunteer pools
- increased awareness by the public about the issues they address and the constituencies that they serve
- access to college resources and knowledge
Guidelines for Designing a Service-Learning Course
Designing a service-learning course requires additional preparation and an attention to process. However, do not let this dismay you from the task. One of the functions of the Hunthausen Center for Peace and Justice is to work with faculty to aid them in the design of their courses and in the placement of their students with local service agencies.
Deciding to Implement Service-Learning
Answering the following questions will help you determine whether or not service-learning is an appropriate dimension for your class.
- What the goals and objectives for your class?
- Can service contribute to students' understanding of the subject?
- In what manner will students' service contribute to course goals and objectives? In what ways will it enrich students' understanding of the subject?
Designing a Service-Learning Course
If, after answering these questions, you decide to integrate service-learning into one or more of your courses, the Carroll College Service-Learning Handbook provides a helpful overview of the important steps to take to ensure success. It also contains appendices with sample forms and examples of reflection activities. You can download the Carroll College Service-Learning Handbook. The Corette Library also has a number of resources on service-learning from general overviews to volumes on specific academic disciplines. See a bibliography of resources on service-learning in the Corette Library. See a list of agencies in the Helena community.
Student Reflections on Service-Learning
I have learned that going outside of my comfort zone is ultimately rewarding.
I have learned something that I wasn't taught before: not to just complain about what I don't like about something and hope it changes someday so it stops inconveniencing me, but to actually get out there and make a difference myself.
This story [about a man she met at God's Love] opened my heart to people. Now when I look at homeless people I will not immediately think that they are asking for money just so they can go get booze. I will wonder what their story is, and maybe offer them a little encouragement.
Meeting immigrants like Maria makes you rethink your views on immigration laws and restrictions. The USA is such a rich country, not rich as in just money rich, but full of opportunities for all kinds of people. I think that we as United States citizens take for granted and displace our anger when immigrants come in and take opportunities that many feel are entitle to them because they are white, when they took advantage of the situation, got greedy, and let the opportunities slip away.
Through our readings, I have learned to give when I can. ‘God loves a cheerful giver.' I will never forget that phrase as I continue to go about my life. I will continue to serve the community in ways that I can, and I will give what I think I can give.