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What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is a course-based, credit-bearing form of experiential education in which students participate in organized service that meets community-identified needs, followed by reflection on the service activity, in order to gain 1) further understanding of course content, 2) an enhanced sense of civic responsibility and engagement, and 3) a broader appreciation of the discipline's role in analysis of social systems and community improvement. There are three general models of service learning from which faculty and community partners might choose, depending on the discipline and the course level.


Discipline-Reflective Service Learning

In Discipline-Reflective Service Learning, intellectual growth occurs primarily during critical reflection on the service experience. This model is especially appropriate for theory-intensive disciplines at any level where the course content is more theoretical than practical (e.g. philosophy, literature). PHILOSOPHY students, for example, might work with at-risk students in an academic enrichment after-school program such as Barnett Child Development (a service that, on the face of it, doesn't involve work in the discipline of philosophy), then critically reflect on the experience (in assignments, class discussion, etc.) through the language of different philosophical schools. Introductory courses in any discipline are also well-suited to this approach, given that introductory students may not have developed enough expertise in the discipline to provide a problem-based service to the community.  First-year ART students, for example, might offer small-group mentorship to children or women at a domestic violence shelter such as Branches and then create a cooperative painting/photo/sculpture project produced by both Marshall students and clients of the shelter. A gallery showing and benefit auction of the artwork after the local performance of the Vagina Monologues could benefit the shelter further.


Problem-Based Service Learning

In Problem-Based Service Learning, intellectual growth occurs primarily through application, as students extend their growing disciplinary expertise into the community in a number of ways. This model is appropriate for skill-based disciplines at any level. For example, BUSINESS students could write a business plan or marketing strategy to help Huntington High School students in art/shop classes sell their works (profits could go into scholarships for which the high school students may later apply). Advanced courses in any discipline are also appropriate to problem-based SL, even if the discipline doesn't seem inherently practical. For example, environmental analytical CHEMISTRY students could perform preliminary lab tests on a vacant building on behalf of a neighborhood association such as Fairfield West Improvement Council in order to help the association submit a competitive federal grant for funds to purchase property for small business development.


Community-Based Research

In Community-Based Research, intellectual growth occurs primarily through the development of research skills appropriate to the discipline. This model works particularly well with advanced undergraduate and graduate students in any discipline where students are learning how to conduct research in their respective fields. For example, an advanced statistical PSYCHOLOGY course could contract with Faith in Action volunteer caregivers to conduct research, perhaps by creating and administering a statistically valid and reliable survey instrument about changes in client quality of life. In some fields, introductory courses are appropriate to community-based research as well. For example, students in an introductory WOMEN'S STUDIES class could contract with a residential group home for girls (such as Golden Girl in Ceredo) to conduct relevant research on grant funding options for the shelter.




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