Service-learning combines community service with academic course content. Educators have discovered that a student involved in his/her community can better critically analyze course content when it is "brought to life" through their service experience. Service-learning is more then an effective method of teaching. It is designed to address real needs that have been identified by our service-learning community partners. In this way, service-learning simultaneously promotes service and education to all parties involved.

Students involved in service-learning projects are often required to fulfill a specific number of hours of service that is interactive each week, or throughout the duration of a four-month semester. This means that the service-learning student would be involved consistently in service to your community agency or school for the duration of their service-learning course.

Working with a Service-Learning Student

Working with Willamette University students involved in service-learning will be different from working with other volunteers.

A service-learning student:

  • Will want to participate in an interactive service experience.
  • Will need an orientation to the community agency or school.
  • May or may not have previous volunteer or service experience.
  • Will have a minimum number of service hours to complete.
  • Appreciates flexibility, but needs the expectations of the agency or school to be clearly stated at the beginning of his/her service experience.
  • Will look for ways to apply classroom theories to his/her observations in the community and vice versa.
  • Will be eager to learn the goals and objectives of the agency or school in addition to learning new tasks that serve a community need.
  • Is not graded on his/her work in the community, but on his/her ability to connect their service experience to course objectives through written assignments or class presentations.
  • May need an evaluation completed by you at the end of the semester.

Service-Learning Definition

While there are many definitions, the American Association of Higher Education states:

Service-learning means a method under which students learn and develop through thoughtfully organized service that: is conducted in and meets the needs of a community and is coordinated with an institution of higher education, and with the community; helps foster civic responsibility; is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the students enrolled; and includes structured time for students to reflect on the service experience.

AAHE: Series on Service-Learning in the Disciplines (adapted from the National and community Service Trust Act of 1993)

Willamette University

Office of Civic Engagement

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6463 voice
503-370-6407 fax

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