Center for Academic Service-Learning

Goals and Benefits

What are the goals of service-learning?

Service-learning combines service to the community with student learning in a way that improves both the student and the community. As they participate in their community service projects, actively meeting the needs of communities, students develop practical skills, and a sense of civic responsibility.

  • Service-learning is a method of teaching through which students apply their academic skills and knowledge to address real-life needs in their own communities.
  • Service-learning provides a compelling reason to learn, teaches the skills of civic participation and develops an ethic of service and civic responsibility.
  • Service-learning increases motivation and retention of academic skills as specific learning goals are tied to community needs.

By solving real problems and addressing real needs, students learn to apply classroom learning to a real world context. At the same time, students provide valuable services to schools and communities.

Academic service-learning helps us achieve academic goals by enabling students to make connections between their course work and the real world as they apply their knowledge and skills to real world situations.

Service-learning also helps us achieve citizenship goals as students appreciate the importance of individual commitments of time and energy to enhance the quality of life in their own communities.

In addition to academic and citizenship goals, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills through their participation in service-learning projects. These experiences will enhance the self-esteem of students, making them more self-confident.

Finally, service-learning projects offer valuable opportunities for career exploration and enables them acquire career related experiences as they complete their course of study at California Lutheran University.

The benefits of Service-learning:

  1. It promotes learning through active participation in service experiences
  2. It provides structured time for students to reflect by thinking, discussing and/or writing about their service experience
  3. It provides an opportunity for students to use skills and knowledge in real-life situations
  4. It extends learning beyond the classroom and into the community
  5. It fosters a sense of caring for others

National studies have validated the benefits of service learning for students, demonstrating that participation in volunteer service during college has widespread positive affects on students' academic and personal development.

  • Service participation positively affects students' commitment to: their communities, helping others with difficulties, promoting racial understanding, and influencing social values.
  • Service participation strengthens the development of important life skills, such as leadership abilities, self confidence, critical thinking, group problem solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Service participation also has a unique positive effect on academic development, including grades earned, degrees sought, time devoted to academic endeavors, academic self confidence, and students' self-assessments of knowledge gained.
  • Service participation can translate into career advancement regardless of discipline, as is attested by the fact that graduates have ranked volunteer experience as the single most important factor in gaining employment.

What do we know about the impacts of service-learning?

A national study of Learn and Serve America programs suggests that effective service-learning programs improve academic grades, increase attendance in school, and develop personal and social responsibility.

Whether the goal is academic improvement, personal development, or both, service-learning can help students learn critical thinking, communication, teamwork, civic responsibility, mathematical reasoning, problem solving, public speaking, vocational skills, computer skills, scientific method, research skills, and analysis.

Service-learning builds stronger academic skills:

  1. Students take an active role in determining how the projects are identified and accomplished, creating interest and excitement for learning.
  2. Service-learning accommodates many different learning styles.
  3. By teaching students early about the role they can play in their community, service-learning also encourages lifelong civic participation.
  4. By relating academic activities to real-life experiences, service-learning improves workplace skills and enhances personal development among youth.
  5. Service-learning gives students a sense of competency; they see themselves as active contributors to their community and learning experiences rather than passive recipients of adult decisions.

Benefits of university/community partnerships:

Students: They get out of the classroom and make a difference. Community service will help them use their talents and knowledge to change lives, including their own!

Faculty: Research demonstrates that community service enriches and supports the academic experience of students. Faculty can integrate service into their curriculum, will help students understand and connect with their community.

Recent research on service-learning in higher education indicates that the most successful service-learning experiences include several key components, such as critical reflection linking service to learning goals, and service activities that are clearly aligned with intended learning outcomes (Eyler & Giles, 1999).

Eyler, J. & Giles, D.E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.