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Service Learning Basics


What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is a form of experiential learning where students and faculty collaborate with communities to address problems and issues, simultaneously gaining knowledge and skills and advancing personal development. There is an equal emphasis on helping communities and providing valid learning experience to students.

Service-learning requires that faculty members be actively engaged as teacher/mentors with students. Students learn new knowledge and skills that contribute to their education. Students have the opportunity to reflect critically upon their experiences. The service provided meets a need identified by the community to be served. Those receiving the service have significant involvement and control over the activities engaged in by students and faculty.

[Adapted from Ruth Marcous Bounous, ed., New Directions: Teaching and Research (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Working Papers Series on Service-Learning, v. 1, 1997), p.5.]


National studies validate the claims that service-learning improves academic achievement across a wide variety of disciplines. Service connected to specific courses can enhance the learning of the course content. [1] Service-Learning has impact on students' personal, social and cognitive outcomes. [2] Participation in a service-learning program can improve the interaction between faculty members and students, which itself has a positive impact on learning. Furthermore, service-learning enhances students' beliefs in their personal efficacy, and can be a predictor in their further professional development. [3]

Service and Citizenship

The very idea of service suggests that not all the benefits of service-learning are reaped by faculty and students. Community service addresses a vast variety of social problems. Community service creates and strengthens connections between people, and serves the needs of the community as a whole. Service-learning can be an important part of a student's civic education, influencing such characteristics as political action skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills and tolerance.[3]

[1] Markus, Howard and King (1993). "Integrating community service and classroom instruction enhances learning: Results from an experiment" Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 15, 410-419.

[2] Giles and Eyler (1994). "The impact of a college community service laboratory on students' personal, social and cognitive outcomes." Journal of Adolescence 17, 327-339.

[3] Eyler, Giles and Braxton (1997). "The Impact of Service-Learning on College Students," Mich. J. Community Service-Learning 4, 5-15.

Getting Started

The following are sites that will assist faculty and administrators implementing service-learning programs:

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Service-Learning 


American Association of Community College promotes the value of Service-Learning to community colleges. The site provides links to general information on service learning and links to organizations related to service-learning and higher education.

American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Service-Learning Project 

The site describes publications and conferences sponsored by AAHE related to service-learning, and related service-learning links.

Campus Compact

Campus Compact is a national alliance of colleges and universities interested in promoting service and leadership at their institutions. This site includes syllabi of courses with service dimensions, full text of and order forms to its publications, and job postings related to service and higher education.


Texas Campus Compact

Campus Compact is a national alliance of colleges and universities interested in promoting service and leadership at their institutions. This site includes syllabi of courses with service dimensions, full text of and order forms to its publications, and job postings related to service and higher education.

Corporation for National Service (CNS)

Corporation for National Service engages more that a million Americans each year in service to help their communities. This site provides links to general information on participation in service through Corporation for National Service sponsored programs such as AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America and Senior Corps. It also describes national partners in service, resources for program directors, employment and fellowship information, and research material.


Learn and Serve America Exchange 


The Learn and Serve America Exchange, led by the National Youth Leadership Council supports service-learning programs in schools, colleges and universities, and community organizations across the country through peer-based training and technical assistance. If you need assistance implementing service-learning programs, have questions, or simply want to speak with someone who has "been there," you can utilize the Exchange as resource by calling toll-free 1-877-572-3924. 

National Dropout Prevention Center 

National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University serves as the
Regional Information Center for the southern portion of the country, providing information about programs in eleven southern states. They also provide access to the National Dropout Prevention Network, a large organization that provides information on dropout prevention, and also the use of service-learning programs to help young people achieve success in school.
Clemson University, 209 Martin Street, Clemson, SC 29634-0726
Phone: (864) 656-2599; Fax: (864) 656-0136
Contact: Marty Duckenfield

National Service-Learning Clearinghouse 

The Learn & Serve America National Service-Learning Clearinghouse is a comprehensive information system that focuses on all dimensions of service-learning, covering kindergarten through higher education school-based and community-based initiatives.


Northwest Regional Laboratory

The Community and Education Volunteer Services Center provides information, tools, networks and training to support the development of effective and sustainable community service, volunteerism, and partnerships among educational, nonprofit, and public organizations.


Points of Light Foundation 

The Points of Light Institute meets the practical learning needs of individuals and organizations that seek to engage volunteers in community service efforts. The Foundation's mission is to engage more people more effectively in volunteer community service to help solve serious social problems. 


Administrative Issues

Service-Learning Internet Community (SLIC)

The Service-Learning Internet Community (SLIC) is a user-friendly, interactive tool on the web for sharing information among service-learning practitioners. Service-learning practitioners from the California State University developed this site to promote and facilitate the exchange of resources, questions, answers, and ideas among faculty, administrators, community partners, and students. You may sign up as a member of this on-line community (membership is not limited to members of the California State University system).