Community colleges are centers of educational opportunity. They are an American invention that put publicly funded higher education at close-to-home facilities in our communities beginning nearly 100 years ago.
As of 2007, community colleges in all 50 states offer service-learning to their students as a means of enhancing their education, giving them the opportunity to serve in their chosen field of study, and increasing their sense of civic responsebility. Community colleges are ideal locations for service-learning programs because community service is a vital part of their mission.
As a part of our mission at Volunteer State Community College, Service Learning combines community service with academic instruction, focusing on:
- Critical thinking and problem solving.
- Values clarification.
- Social and personal development.
- Civic and community responsibility.
- Global, cultural and inter-generational scope.
So What Is Service Learning?
The National and Community Service Act of 1990 defines service learning with a set of four criteria:
- Under which students learn and develop through participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with the school and community;
- That is integrated into the student's academic curriculum or provides structured time for a student to think, talk, or write about what the student did and saw during the actual service activity.
- That provides students with opportunities to use newly acquires skills and knowledge in real-life situations in their communities; and
- That enhances what is taught in schoolby extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community and helps to foster the development of a sense of caring for others.
Getting Started with Service Learning
- List the courses and topics you currently teach (or hope to in the future)
- List the community organizations you support, know of, or work with in some way (or hope to). If you do not know specific organizations, list the issues you would most like to work on.
- Look back over the first two lists and try to identify a match. That is, choose a course and community issue(s) or organization(s) that can be connectedin some way. This is a potential ser vice learning project. The rest of this activity will focus on this pair.
- What are a few of your primary course objectives?
- Is there a theme you might employ to help connect the course topic and the service learning activity?
- What service learning components would work best? (One-time service learning project for an entire class, on going requirement for the class, or optional projects individually designed.)
- What do you expect your students to gain from the service experience? (e.g., learning skills, applying knowledge, development of values and attitudes)
- What kinds of activities (assignments, readings, reflection) will be used?
- How will you grade students?
Goals and Benefits of Service Learning
- Realize academic learning objective while involving students in the community.
- Prepares students for future careers.
- Empowers students with local issues and needs.
- Offers students greater responsibility for their learning.
- Exposes students to inequality and injustice in societies, while allowing them to make a difference.
- Students connect theory with experience and thought with action.
- Provides global, cultural, and intergenerational scope.
- Prepares students for life after college.
- Campus-community collaboration and partnerships are increased.
- Focuses the relevancy of education to students living in a real world.
- Encourages students with positive values, leadership, citizenship, and personal responsibility.
- Sanctions students as learners, leaders, achievers, and teachers.