Service-learning is a teaching methodology that extends learning beyond the classroom and into the community through relevant and meaningful service. Through the assignment of a project that addresses community needs, students learn from community members and develop leadership skills while practicing theoretical knowledge gained in class. Service-learning is at the heart of Rockhurst’s educational foundation: learning, leadership and service in the Jesuit tradition. Everyone benefits from service-learning. Community organizations benefit from student talent and faculty expertise, while students learn from and serve the community.
Service-learning works. It’s one way students, faculty and community members participate together in projects that are progressive, transformative and rooted in the social and civic ideals fundamental to both nonprofit and university missions. Experience, commitment and energy, characterize the service-learning experience (and a commitment to flexibility).
Students, faculty and community members are involved in service-learning for myriad reasons. Among the most common motivators are: commitment to meaningful learning for students, professional development and meeting community needs --- with all partners united in a desire to promote actions for the common good.
"What my experience gave to me was the knowledge that education can take place anywhere. It doesn't take a classroom or a library for learning to happen merely an open and eager mind." Service learning student
Students report that they learn much more about the community and find links to their academic goals when service is part of a course. Students who participate in required course-based service-learning show greater personal transformation than those in optional programs. Service-learning is powerful: a Higher Education Research Institute study (Astin et al, 2000) found more than four-fifths of service-learning students felt that their service “made a difference” and that they were learning from their service experience.
A few of the top reasons students participate in academic service-learning are:
- To become more aware of the world
- To become more aware of personal values
- To increase engagement with the classroom experience and/or subject matter
- To learn more about other people
- To learn more about where they live
Service-learning allows students to provide service in the community that is directly related to an academic course. It is designed to apply the concepts and theories discussed in the classroom to the community. In addition, academic service-learning provides opportunity for professional development in the “real world”, often yielding activities and deliverables students are proud to put on their resumes, such as:
- Applying theoretical concepts to real-life work
- Getting introduced to a range of community needs where skills and good attitudes can be developed for becoming better citizens
- Obtaining work experience related to an area of interest
- Gaining insights into how government agencies and nonprofit organizations and businesses can work together to make better communities