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General Overview of Concepts

Service learning brings the community into the learning and teaching process. Concrete learning goals provided by the faculty member, combined with the specific interests and abilities of the service-learner, help to define which community learning sites are appropriate. The academic, personal, and civic learning are enhanced through guided reflections throughout the experience.

Core course concepts: Service-learning is focused learning. Students begin with a clearly defined set of academic concepts that help guide their community placements. They often find many other applications on their own. The diverse service experiences of the class help to deepen class understanding of these concepts, and may provide faculty with student learning examples that can be used in subsequent years to reinforce core course concepts.

Significant service to the community: Service-learning is at its best when the service challenges both students and faculty, and is meaningful to the community. When students move "beyond their comfort zone" they will look for the course material and the faculty member to help them understand the issues facing the community, and their role in response to those needs. Experiences that provide for significant involvement maximize the flow of information from the community back into the classroom, and increase the likelihood of personal and civic development.

Reflection ensures integration of knowledge: There are many ways to facilitate the planned and purposeful integration of classroom and community learning through reflection. Students engaged in significant service, especially when they are out of their comfort zone, will have many questions, and their understanding often takes on a new urgency. Processing the community experiences both supports the student and maximizes the learning. Service-learners may know that ideas from class apply to a given service situation, but they may be unclear how to utilize the concepts fully. As one student struggles to put their knowledge into practice, other students can serve as resources for understanding. When the faculty member clarifies the concept for one student, other students enjoy a fuller comprehension.