The "Learning" in Service Learning

Submitted by Roselyn Turner on

Honors students in my Communication courses are required to propose and complete a Service Learning project. Documentation of Cognitive & Affective learning achievement and Critical Thinking skills are to be formally evidenced in a presentation. To promote deeper learning and thinking throughout the semester as the students engage in their projects, I expounded the Project Proposal to include their expected learning outcomes and thinking processes.  Throughout the semester students referred to their proposal as they logged their service activities, engaged in peer discussions to compare and contrast experiences, and I met with them individually to guide reflection. Out of 30 students, 100% demonstrated at least some level of achievement of the Cognitive objectives; 75% addressed Affective objectives (with empathy & assertiveness being the most common), and 100% evidenced Application and/or Evaluation and/or Synthesis levels of thinking.  The "learning" in Service Learning was more apparent than in semesters past.

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Average: 4.5 (6 votes)


Olga Tsoudis Tue, 08/13/2013 - 11:31am

HI Ro, I enjoyed reading your assessment. It gives the students the opportunity to really think through their project proposal and how service learning impacts them. The instructions help the student keep on task, as does the timeline. In the proposal, the rationale for the project is a good way to get the student to think about why they chose their specific service learning project. The expected skills questions also connect the project to how it will impact the student.  Overall, this is a solid way to assess the learning from the project. I look forward to hearing about your results.

Rachel Holmes Tue, 08/13/2013 - 11:41am

Thank you Ro.  This is certainly a worthy project, and I appreciate the fact that you provide your students an opportunity to create their own project thereby giving them a chance to find a personal passion for contributing to the community. Having them self-reflect on what they learned and then allowing them to present to the class is a great way to conclude this project.  Do you ever have students that are opposed to this type of project stating it's unrelated to the actual course content? If so, how do you respond?

Roselyn Turner Tue, 08/13/2013 - 12:25pm

In reply to by Rachel Holmes

Thanks for the positive feedback, Rachel!  You ask a very good question.  I honestly cannot remember a student challenging the project. Perhaps it is because Communication is all-inclusive.  Or perhaps it is because of how I rationalize or frame the assignment.  I reiterate that ALL behavior communicates, and so engaging in service is ETHICAL communication.  I also have them read Chapter 1 of Doris Hamner's book BUILDING BRIDGES, "Benefits of Service Learning for the Student"  and my own article regarding the effects of Service Learning on Emotional Intelligence. 

Peter Turner Mon, 09/16/2013 - 6:53pm

Ro - you have connected metacognition to your Service Learning project; well done. Getting students to think about the how and why as they do their project heightens higher-level thinking skills. I am very interested to see the results as they compare to prior speeches.

Bronwen Steele Tue, 09/17/2013 - 7:17am

For some reason I cannot download the proposal form. If you get a chance, can you send it to me? I am considering this for mini research/experimental proposals for science. A general form would be helpful.

Erik Huntsinger Tue, 09/17/2013 - 4:23pm

It is a great idea to include self-assessments along the way for students to monitor their own progress.  It's important step to transitioning them from instructor-based compliance to self-based monitoring- a life skill they can use for many years after they leave our institution!

Heather Muns Wed, 02/19/2014 - 10:36pm

Great project, Ro.  I enjoy using service learning in my classroom as well.  My students do a project that has them reading aloud to children.  They monitor their sessions and take notes on their progress with the child.  At the end they write a reflection about their experience.  I find that the students who are most apprehensive about the project end up having the best experience in the end.  Not only have they created a positive reading experience for a child, but they have also created one for themselves.  

Chantele S. Carr Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:03am

Well done Dr. Turner!  I look forward to including Service Learning into my classes this semester.  I like that the student were given the atonomy to pick their where they wanted to do their service learning project.  Allowing the students to engage in peer discussions gave them the opportunity to share experiences.  I also like that you met the students individually to discuss their experiences. 

Roselyn Turner Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:35pm

In reply to by Chantele S. Carr

Thanks, Chantele.  I think it is great that you want to incorporate Service Learning this semester, but I would caution that it does require additional effort.  So, I would keep it really simple to begin.  You are carrying such a heavy load of ALL the courses that we offer and you should find a balance.  I want you to have FUN this year, too!  Ro