Service Learning programs, also called Community Engagement programs, are exploding in popularity among K-12 and collegiate institutions. In fact, according to a 2008 study, 68% of K-12 schools have implemented a service learning curriculum. Here are the top 5 reasons principals promote these programs:
In addition to these specific reasons, studies have shown that service learning programs positively impact all stakeholders– students, community partners, and instructors. But, before we get too far into how these programs are becoming more popular, let’s start with the basics.
What is Service Learning?
The National Youth Leadership Council defines service learning as:
“… an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.”
The service learning/community engagement movement started as instructors and institutions noticed a gap in what students learned in the classroom and the ecosystem they encountered in the real world. Classrooms are often less diverse and don't expose students to the challenges like poverty, discrimination, and diversity.
Service learning programs are designed to expose students to real world problems and situations they do not experience in the classroom.
Examples of Service Learning
Service learning and community engagement encompass core activities designed to connect students with community causes and projects. These activities can include:
Volunteerism: Volunteerism as part of a service learning curriculum is designed to accomplish two goals. The first goal is what students personally achieve from completing the project. The second goal is to reinforce their educational experience.
Community Service: Community service learning is a structured learning experience within an academic course.
Internships: Internships provide students with experience in various fields of work. Students often gain a more measurable benefit that is applicable to the workforce later in life.
Field Service: Field education programs provide students with service opportunities related to their field of study or potential profession.
How do Service Learning Programs Impact Students?
Research shows that students who participate in service learning courses or projects receive several benefits, including:
Relating classroom knowledge to real world challenges
In successful service learning programs, the service opportunities often relate to coursework the student is studying or has completed. By connecting coursework to applicable real-life scenarios, students better understand how their course work relates to their community.
Achieving personal accomplishments
Volunteerism helps students with their individual development. Students increase their leadership skills and personal efficacy. They also experience moral development, and spiritual growth.
Gaining a better understanding of society
Most service projects are designed to connect students with diverse populations in their community. This leads to a reduction in stereotyping and helps facilitate a better cultural and racial understanding for the student.
Building a positive relationship with their educational institution
There are endless studies that focus on the positive impact volunteering has on the volunteer. As a result, students develop a stronger attachment to the institution that provided them with the volunteering opportunity.
How is Service Learning Tracked Outside the Classroom?
There are plenty of tests and assessments designed to track student progress for traditional academic studies. However, quantifying service learning activities can pose a challenge to institutions. At MobileServe, we’ve built a simple solution that lets students submit volunteer hours through a mobile app. Administrators can then see all all service activities in one place and can quickly review student logs and run reports.
For a full list of MobileServe's features, check out our product page!
Are you an administrator who wants to implement a service learning program? Or do you already have one in place but struggle to keep track of what students are accomplishing outside the classroom? We’d love to discuss how MobileServe can help your organization capture the impact of your students! Contact us today.