Create a Service-Learning Course

The CSL office is a resource to you as you build a service-learning component into your curriculum. It is our goal to meet the needs you articulate. Please contact us with any questions or suggestions and we will work with you to build a plan for how we can support you. Options might include trainings and workshops; a library of best practices; assistance in identifying service sites with community partners that will meet the learning objectives of your course; or connecting you with a network of other faculty with similar interests in service.

Step 1: Review the resources available on this site.

Service-learning has the potential to provide transformational learning opportunities to students. However; providing a meaningful experience is not as simple as getting outside of the classroom. There is an array of research in the field of service-learning that has led to widely-accepted best practices for instructors.

We encourage you to take the time to browse the resources and sample WU syllabi offered on this site to familiarize yourself with the theory and practices behind service-learning. We even have links to national databases of SL syllabi and partnership models arranged by discipline, so you can find examples suited specifically for your field!

Step 2: Identify your learning objectives.

How can service-learning enhance the learning opportunities available to students in your course? Intentional incorporation of service-learning (rather than “tacking on” service requirements) contributes to the development of long-lasting and meaningful experiences and relationships between students, Willamette, and the community!

Our faculty resources section includes course development worksheets to help you identify your course and student learning objectives; however, if you find yourself in need of additional assistance or guidance in identifying learning objectives that are right for your course, we would love to be of service! Simply contact us and we will happily arrange for a consultation.

Step 3: Identify a community need (and start a relationship!)

Service-learning is intended to benefit not just students, but the community as well!

When identifying opportunities for service-learning partnership, the easiest way to ensure that your course provides a genuine service to the community is if the community has been involved in identifying the need themselves! It is important to be sure that communications with your community partner ensure your service works to meet the needs and/or goals stated by the partner. For the sake of long term sustainability however, ensure that both sides’ expectations and goals for service are aligned before continuing. Resulting long-lasting partnerships can go a long way to reduce the amount of time you spend building your courses that are taught semester after semester.

If you are looking for a community agency with which to develop a partnership, it might be worth your while to browse our Service Agencies Directory, which lists community agencies that have expressed their interest in incorporating student involvement to meet their needs. Also, be sure to review our faculty resources, which include an example Memorandum of Understanding and an MOU worksheet to guide you as you develop your community partnerships.

Step 4: Clearly state student expectations

Your course may be the first time your students have found themselves in a professional work environment. Expectations related to scheduling, hours requirements, professional behavior (who do you call when you can’t come in?), reflection, etc. should be established ahead of time to guide students in their roles.

You can find links to sample service-learning syllabi, as well as to sample student service-learning contracts in our faculty resources section!

Step 5: Reflect!

So you helped with wetlands restoration... now what?

Effective reflection (and even “preflection” — think about it!) is what can take an experience from being “dirty work” to becoming meaningful service. Guiding students through processes that encourage them to (re-)evaluate their relationship to the work being done, as well as the context of their service within the workings of greater societal issues, provides the transformative learning opportunities that the experience of “pulling weeds” might not accomplish on its own.

Best practices encourage faculty to evaluate students on the assignments that derive from service, rather than solely on the number of hours served. Examples of effective reflection activities, as well as suggested grading rubrics for what can be a rather subjective process can be found in our faculty resources list!

Step 6: Evaluate and report.

Effective evaluation will solicit input from students, faculty, and community partners. See the impact your service-learning course has made, and help further service-learning as a part of Willamette culture. In our Course resources page, you’ll find example evaluation materials to guide you in assessment. In addition, we welcome you to report on the service carried out in your course either by using our Service Hours Submission form, or by emailing us at!