Aug 30 Topic: What is “Service-Learning”?

(Comment due by 10:45AM 8/31; Reply due by 10:45AM 9/2)

The term “service-learning” is used a great deal in universities and colleges across the US and abroad, but different institutions use different definitions and practices.

For this week, you will need to do a little research in books and/or online and summarize what you learn to explain what this concept means. Be sure to cite any books or Web sites you reference (paraphrased or quoted directly; including college Web pages) to give credit to the author(s) and so that we can refer back to the author(s) as needed.

Check out the Rubric before you begin commenting to make sure you understand my expectations for this discussion.

I can’t wait to learn with, and from, you!


Dr. Roemer

15 thoughts on “1-8/30

  1. “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” (http://www.uncfsu.edu/civic-engagement/service-learning/definition-of-service-learning) I couldn’t agree more to what Fayetteville State University said their definition was of service learning. I believe community service is a part of service learning but understanding the whole process while enriching the communities is the most important factor to it because if you understand the people in need you will understand the needs for those people to a more in depth level. If possible I would rather change the situation into a solid solution than help provide for that situation. (But don’t worry both are still good options of service, but service learning is taking it up a notch by understanding the issue and not just helping with it.) Learning why a change is needed and how you can help that change is more beneficial to that organization or problem than just helping a solution that provides instant help.

    If you didn’t have a passion for helping others or your particular study you wouldn’t be interested in service learning, you would only be interested in helping out at times when easy for you. Service Learning is more of you taking on a challenge rather than community service where you just help out a non consistent solution.

    ”Work done without pay” is another topic though. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community%20service) Community service is good because it is your time given up for a cause, but service learning and a responsibility that is for a paid position is not a bad thing. Just because you are paid doesn’t mean your work is not genuine, it could mean you truly care about your work enough to make it a full time job. What do you think is being paid still okay if its service learning?

    I believe that a service learning job can be a paid position because you are fully committed to that task you try to take care of. Everyone on this world at least wants to make a good living, but luckily these people in this authoritative roles have good enough backgrounds to let them be able to thrive in the world. The work they do of course is work for a good cause, so its nothing like earning money in any illegal way. Thats why it is okay for a Service learning job to be paid because they put so much time into these solutions they need some compensation to live everyday lives.


    1. I do agree with the idea that service learning can or should be a paid position. But I believe that is the ideal thought with the task of service learning; in reality the most successful people of influence are not paid a cent of money. The famous Martin Luther King Jr was to some extent an activist in service learning in that he understood and from first hand experienced, learned the problems faced in the black community. According to your definition of service learning, King taught his community on how to solve and face these difficult problems, therefore taking action from understanding and learning. However, Martin Luther King Jr. was not paid a cent for his work in service learning and definitely did not receive a good living. Do you think maybe paying people who devote their lives in service learning could become greedy instead of being strong and constant? And do you think it’s unfortunate for people who devote their lives in service learning to be not be paid or do you think it’s evident that not being paid depicts how much more compassion they have for service learning and the community? I believe if you are willing to dedicate your life to service learning then money would not even be in thought at all. Help me out here.


      1. Sawyer and Ashia,
        I agree with both of you. Ashia, it does seem like pay could distract the person doing the service-learning from their true goal of helping and learning about the community. At the same time, it would be hard to make a living on service-learning without being paid. As Sawyer said, I think it is okay to pay people who make service-learning their full-time job. A lack of pay may discourage people from doing more service-learning. Perhaps we must decide whether it is better to have more people doing service-learning but a little focused on money, or having fewer people completely focused on helping others. What do you all think?
        I also wonder who would pay those doing service-learning. Service-learning seems to be something that is either done in a class or perhaps independently. Are there organizations that pay people to do service-learning? Perhaps donations could fund someone doing service-learning as their full-time job. This is a very interesting topic.


  2. In class yesterday, we defined Service Learning as helping to educate yourself and others about a broad topic by being a “Leader-Advocate”. But, what is a “Leader-Advocate”? To me, being a “Leader-Advocate” is someone who spreads awareness about an issue, while also helping others to better understand and spread awareness about the issue. These “Leader-Advocates” could also be considered the leader of a company that works to improve a certain issue, such as homelessness. “Leader-Advocates” are also the people that work to convince others to do community service to help their cause. Community service may seem similar to Service Learning; however, they are two totally different ideas.

    Fayetteville State University explains Service Learning as “teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection”. However, I do not totally agree with this statement. I do not believe that Service Learning should be limited to a classroom; it should also be done at home or out in the field. I consider myself to be involved in Service Learning, and I do it all on my own. I have a passion for helping abused and disadvantaged situations, so I have taken it upon myself to learn more about these issues. Whether is was by actually working with the kids, researching, or talking to others with my same passion, I have been able to learn a lot and educate myself without having to sit through a lecture.

    One who does Service Learning should be very knowing about the issue they are passionate about, while one who does community service does not necessarily need to be. People that do community service may have a want to help and make a difference, but do not really have a preference in what way. Some examples of community service: picking up trash on a beach, helping clean cages at an animal shelter, hanging up posters to advertise a fundraiser. Though service learning does require more work, does that make it better than community service? Either way, without community service, service learning would not be possible.



  3. Fayetteville State University says that, “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” (http://www.uncfsu.edu/civic-engagement/service-learning/definition-of-service-learning). To understand service learning you must understand the difference between it and community service. Both can go hand in hand but they can also be very different. With service learning, the emphasis is on both the students learning and addressing real problems faced by the community.
    Loyola University makes a good contrast between the two. They said that an example of community service would be to participate in a neighborhood clean up to help the community. For service learning they used a similar example but added more depth, writing that students would study waste collection and services in the city and would prepare a series of clean up project as a way of learning about accessibility and use of these services. Loyola is making the point that service learning just goes further than community service, an extension of what was being accomplished with community service (http://www.loyno.edu/engage/service-learning-vs-community-service).
    Community service is less so about learning and more so about just helping out the community. Learning is not intentional or prioritized with community service but often happens. Community service is about helping a certain group or person out, while service learning is more so about addressing big problems challenging our community and finding permanent solutions for them.
    Joe Brandy, from Vanderbilt University, says that service learning combines learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and common good (https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-through-community-engagement/). Service learning is a broader idea with community service being a part of it. Instead of taking part in a trash clean up or a run for the cause, which help but don’t change much, you are finding lasting solutions to fix those challenges while learning about the main things that cause the problems. Through service learning the student is able to be educated greatly about problems in the community and able to design solutions to fix them.
    If service learning is so impactful is community service really that important? Should schools and universities start focusing more on service learning over community service?
    I have mixed feelings about this because I see both sides of it. Community service seems to be an easier route to get students out into the community to help make a difference. But I also see that sometimes the activities and volunteering the students are doing aren’t actually helping much. I saw an example of this when TVS had their Day of Service. I was so glad I was able to go to River Tree Academy because I got to help out a really cool organization and hang out with some sweet kids, but a few of my friends who went to other places didn’t feel like they had helped out as much and saw the day as wasted. If the community service we did that day only impacted a small percent of people we should change the way that day works. Maybe not have it just one day a year and do it once a quarter, where you get to go back and visit the same organization and are able to reflect about what you could do next time to further help. We should make the day of service more service learning based to both impact the people we are helping and ourselves.


    1. Sarah you bring up a good point, that now having read your post, I can’t believe no one has asked that question in class. It seems like all of us do believe that service learning is “more important” than community service because of the potential long term effects, but community service too is a great thing. My opinion: yes schools do need to keep doing community service around the city because why throw away a great thing for another equally great thing or possibly a little better? I do believe schools should start to adopted a service learning class as a additional class to really try to help the community out, but why completely remove community service? People all have different passions in the world and the ones that want to pursue a lifestyle of looking for change should take part in these new classes and make it a career but the kids that have no way in doing should and still can get involved in helping out in any way they can though community service, like volunteer days. It be a perfect world if we all could take part in these service learning classes but in some cases that just can’t happen so you have to keep community service apart of the curriculum so kids can have an easier time to help out as well.


  4. Service-learning is often confused with community service, but they are not the same thing. Service-learning goes deeper than community service, as it involves learning and understanding about the service one is performing. Service-learning is often a class in high school or college and learning is fundamental for a successful service-learning experience. Community service, on the other hand, does not prioritize learning, and if it occurs it is simply a side effect. Community service is about working, about helping and serving the community, not about exploring community issues and finding ways to solve them. Service-learning looks at the big picture, while community service is one individual or a group of individuals working to help the community at that moment. Those individuals are volunteers, while those who participate in service-learning are problem-solvers and leaders.
    Service-learning is also more beneficial for the student than community service. “At their best, service-learning experiences are reciprocally beneficial for both the community and students” (http://www.uta.edu/ccsl/about/what-is-service-learning.php). Service-learning benefits the community because students are directly trying to solve problems in the community and labor for the community’s benefit. Students are also benefited by service-learning. Through service-learning experiences, students develop empathy and social responsibility; they also have the opportunity to explore career paths and establish job connections (http://www.uta.edu/ccsl/about/what-is-service-learning.php). Another benefit of service-learning is, “Greater interpersonal development, particularly the ability to work well with others, and build leadership and communication skills” (https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-through-community-engagement/). The development of these two skills is a goal I have for this class, so this benefit of service-learning is particularly important to me. Students are able to develop these necessary skills because of the hands-on experience provided by going out and serving in the community. This is much more beneficial than simply learning through books in a classroom (http://www.uta.edu/ccsl/about/what-is-service-learning.php).
    Is service-learning more important than community service? Perhaps it would be better if all volunteers took a service-learning class and understood the problems their community was facing, but that is not practical. Since this is not realistic, I think volunteers are very important, possibly equally important to students taking a service-learning class. In a sense, volunteers also increase the importance of service-learning, because without the volunteers, solutions would not be put in action.
    Does service-learning have to be a class, or can it be pursued independently? It seems to mostly, or maybe only, be organized by schools or other organizations. However, it seems like actively learning through volunteer work and coming up with solutions to community problems should be considered more than just community service. Perhaps this also counts as service-learning, just not for a grade or credit.


    1. Meredith,

      I believe that community service and service learning are both important in their own ways, not necessarily better than the other. I do believe however, the service learning would not be possible without community service. As you stated, service learning is community service but with an aspect of education. If there were no service, we would just be learning about an issue, but not doing anything to help it.

      I do not totally agree with your argument that volunteers are equal to people participating in service learning. I believe that both are important, but participants in service learning are the ones heading programs and organizing the volunteers. Extra work is required to become the head, while all volunteering requires is showing up and doing the work. Volunteers are an important aspect to service learning, and make up a large part of it, but they would not have anything to do without the programs to volunteer at.


      1. I think its important to remember the value in community service. Although service-learning has a more definite stance of understanding the implications of one’s service, community service, or the act of doing the service itself” is an integral component of service writ large, because it is the material action that creates the material changes necessary to improve the lives of people. A sole focus on service learning might lead to “tinkering” or just “endless knowledge production or discussions” that materially dont result in anything significant except a sense of moral superiority, which would be problematic. Its awesome to talk about the importance of service and awareness in the classroom setting, but I feel that community service is what we translate our understandings into, which means that both play an integral role in creating genuine services that better society.


    2. Meredith,
      I do agree with you comment, as it compares Community service and Service Learning. You say that community service is a labor where as service learning is an experience. I do believe this is true and agree that service learning is not just something you put work into, but something that you experience and cherish. I would say that service learning is a more in depth part of community service that serves more than just a community, but also gives knowledge to those who engage in it.


  5. Epistemology implicates decision-making i.e. how we act, perform, and serve are necessarily based on the form of intellectual foundation we establish prior to that action, performance, and service. I firmly believe that in service learning, the “knowledge production” is tailored to not have a specific endpoint, but rather is a constant process that seeks to create critical consciousness of one’s surrounding, peers, and self. It is with this in mind that most academic institutions have a pedagogical commitment to service-learning. For example, Duke University asserts that “service learning supports Duke’s commitment to knowledge in the service of society by connecting civic engagement to the curriculum” (http://servicelearning.duke.edu/). Duke underscores that service-learning essentially serves as an avenue for students to passionately cultivate an intellectual infrastructure rooted in a passion for service, dedication to the community, and a genuine desire to aid the underserved population. This is a particularly significant emphasis, since it asks of students to in a way apply the information they gather and use it in a meaningful way for the betterment of their communities. This means that students actualize and materialize their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge from class into something powerful, and become activists rather than passive listeners.
    Furthermore, youth.gov enumerates the variety of goals in service-learning: “(1) enhancing academic learning, (2) teaching civic responsibility, (3) developing 21st century skills, (4) increasing global awareness, and (5) strengthening communities” (http://youth.gov/youth-topics/service-learning). Service-learning seems to put particular emphasis on a sense of responsibility we have as students of the 21st century. It alludes to the fact that for students who pursue higher education, they have been exposed to a breath of ideas, so they have an ethical obligation to promote a set of beliefs and practices that aim at improving communities and further spreading critically awareness to their peers. I think this is where service-learning is steers off from community service: service-learning is the practice of creating a culture that provides understandings for why community service is necessary, internalizing a genuine will to serve passionately. Not only does service learning create this form of culture, but it also affords the awareness, understandings, and knowledge necessary to have an affective commitment to the people we serve. It forces us to analyze the unique positionality of people, which necessarily lead us to tailor our solutions to accommodate the individual needs. It rejects the logic of “one solution solves all” and attempts to acknowledge variations and differences within problems and individualize service, which is something that I think is intrinsically valuable.
    To conclude, community service and service-learning are intertwined and mutually constitutive. I picture community service as a tool of some sort and service learning as the factory where that tool was made. Service-learning tailors what it produces depending on what exactly what problem the tool needs to resolve i.e. factories sometimes make hammers, drills, or wrenches depending on what is necessary at that moment. With that in mind, should TVS not only require community service for 60 hours, but integrate service-learning into regular subjects like math, science, and history. Is it possibly already happening? Should we emphasize the application of what we learn to our community more? And most importantly, what would this materially look like? As I research universities in my senior year, it seems that a lot of universities are putting emphasis on service-oriented curriculum and curriculum that requires students to serve underserved population, and so I’m beginning to think that such a way of learning in high school might be productive and helpful for college. This might look like a biology class planting trees at a park while discussing photosynthesis or a history class teaching underserved students about topics they are learning in their history classes. The possibilities are limitless.


  6. As a young student who has spent most of her life in the TVS community, I have dedicated valuable time and pursued my personal interests in the well-being of others. Being a fellow volunteer in various community service programs has led to a passionate pursuit in serving other human beings that are less fortunate than the commonwealth. Following this path introduced me to a belief we all like to call “Service Learning”. The first time I heard of this idea, I assumed that the denotation of service learning meant learning through community service. Researching the idea I came across numerous definitions on the idea of service learning. Surely the meaning of service learning went much deeper than I had expected. Surely there is a better explanation or theory on the meaning of service learning than what is said in plain text. Eventually I acknowledge the facts that service learning is not exclusive to only community service and education, but focuses on the bigger picture of long term or short term issues.
    Instead, service learning is the clashing of community service with the intention of learning to improve the minds about the problems in cities, states, or countries. And from that knowledge, we can figure out ways to plant and grow our own services for the problems faced in society. At the same time, we spread the word and teach others about the knowledge we have grasped, which then continues the cycle all over again. Since others will want to improve or incorporate new ideas to solve the problems. According to Janet S. Eyler, a winner of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning, and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., service learning is “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students. . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development. . . experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action”( https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-through-community-engagement). The teachers from Vanderbilt University both agree that service learning is “cycle of action”. Community service is the action taken place and through that action, the student will get a better understanding of the problems in the city, state, or country. Therefore, effective action is taken place inside the community. Perhaps people get confused with the notion of volunteering and community service as service learning because both aspects “defined as forms of service within a community” (https://www.bcps.org/offices/service_learning/serv_learn_isnot.html). However what volunteering and community service do not include are “structured educational connection for participants, which is a foundation of all service-learning projects” (https://www.bcps.org/offices/service_learning/serv_learn_isnot.html). Perhaps there is a definitive line between community service and service learning when a student has the courage to ask their instructor if they could incorporate “a structured educational component” connected to the community service intentionally ( https://www.bcps.org/offices/service_learning/serv_learn_isnot.html).


    1. Ashia,
      Your response made me think because it had many similar aspects that I found in my research but also a few different ones that I never came across. The point I really liked that you wrote about was that “service learning is not exclusive to only community service and education, but focuses on the bigger picture of long term or short term issues.” I think this is so important because it brings us back to the discussion we had during class about specific vs. broad. The point we were making in class was that community service is more of a “how can I HELP this one organization in this one moment” while service learning is more of “how can I FIX this problem challenging our community.” It is important to notice one is helping and one is fixing, ultimately bringing us back to your idea that service learning is focusing on the bigger picture of fixing a problem. Service learning is more effective.
      You wrote about the “cycle of action.” I haven’t heard of the comparison between service learning and community service used in this way and it was a really interesting thought. What I take from that is, the teachers at Vanderbilt believe service learning is based off of community service. Community service is the actions you are doing but the service learning comes from what you learn from it and how you further your studies on that topic. I don’t know if I believe this completely because although I think service learning comes with an aspect of community service, there are many other characteristics that must be there in order to properly do service learning.
      Other than learning and research, what other aspect must service learning have to be different than community service?


  7. Service-learning is described in may different ways, most comparing the concept to Community Service, a well known way for people to spend their time helping out a community. Audrey Rider describes service learning by explaining that, “Service-Learning is a method of teaching that enriches learning by engaging youth in meaningful service in their schools and communities.” (http://igrow.org/4h/volunteers/difference-between-community-service-and-service-learning/#sthash.oToUw4xN.dpuf) Although I agree with Audrey on the way she explains service learning I also think that service-learning is a bit more complex. This type of service, to me, focuses on something deeper than just helping/fixing a community or volunteering time, it’s dedication to time spent educating in order to problem solve.

    Education is a large part of service-learning and what makes it different from Community idea that Service, but it is not the only thing. On youth.gov, The American Psychological Association distinguishes that, “Service-learning differs from community service and volunteering in two distinct ways: The service activity is a form of experiential learning that is integrated with academic curriculum and content. Students engage in reflection activities after their service experience and apply their learning in real-life activities.” (http://youth.gov/youth-topics/service-learning/difference-between-community-service-service-learning) Although not verbatim to Audrey Riders thoughts on igrow.org, both seem to have the same definition and idea that unlike Community Service or volunteering, service-learning is opportunity for the young generation to learn/engage and take their new found knowledge out into the world to create things like non profit organization where community service can commence.

    Service-learning, although confused with community service quite often, actually is a large part of why people volunteer and connect with not only their community, but others with the same struggle. Both services build and create strong leaders, but the difference between each the leaders how they knowledge is applied later on. As a student part of the TVS community, a community whose goal is to create effective leaders, I feel like each year I am a stronger leader who strives in community service, but am I a leader that will apply my knowledge into my daily life?

    Can these types of leaders be taught, ones to put their knowledge of community problems and problem solving into real life activities, or is that can you only commit to being that type of leader? Is it a personal decision? I feel as though you must personally choose to put good into action. If I am correct and TVS is in fact a school that strives in building leaders than why so few people in service class? The few leaders who are actually willing to go the extra mile or take the extra class to learn the struggles of their community, is it their job to not just be community service leaders, but service-learning leaders?


    1. I think an important part you mention in your response is having a connection to people “with the same struggle;” that people tend to be the best “service-leaders” when they share a connection with the people they are serving. This is particularly true because it allows you to create an affective bond with the people you serve, leading to community service that is overall more thoughtful, genuine, and compassionate. With this in mind, I personally believe it’s particularly difficult to “manufacture” a leader that is devoted in service, since unique backgrounds, family history, and identity are not things that can simply be constructed overnight in a classroom. Moreover, I see becoming a “service-leader” as a personal decision people make, whether they have an interpersonal commitment to their community and what they decide to do with it if they do.
      Your question of whether it’s people’s “job” to be service is interesting, because I think service is something that by definition is something you do that isn’t required by you or personally benefit you in a particular war. As we become more and more aware of the status quo and the world writ large, I think people have a greater responsibility from that awareness to not only act ethically, but take a large role in shaping the world in some positive way. Doing nothing with the knowledge you attain results in a form of complacency, which is why it is important for critically conscious leaders to take action and provide legitimate care and concern for their community.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s