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Office of Civic Engagement & Service Learning

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Definition of Service Learning

Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse).

Service learning is a process of involving students in community service activities combined with facilitated means for applying the experience to their academic and personal development.  It is a form of experiential education aimed at enhancing and enriching student learning in course material.  When compared to other forms of experiential learning like internships and cooperative education, it is similar in that it is student-centered, hands-on and directly applicable to the curriculum.

The critical difference and distinguishing characteristic of service learning is its reciprocal and balanced emphasis on both students learning and addressing real needs in the community.  Course learning objectives are linked to meaningful human, safety, educational, and environmental needs that are co-determined with community partners and service recipients.  Course materials such as lectures, readings, discussions, and reflection activities supplement the student service.  In turn, the service experience is brought back to the classroom to enhance the academic dialogue and student comprehension.  Students work on real problems that make academic learning relevant while simultaneously enhancing their social skills, analytical ability, civic and ethical responsibility, self-efficacy, and career development.

At Fayetteville State University, service learning can be incorporated into courses by offering students individual service opportunities with community agencies, or by creating project-based service activities for a group of students or for the entire class.  The most meaningful service learning activities are developed through partnership and dialogue between the University and the community organizations with whom our students serve.

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