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Teaching Excellence

This guide provides active learning and teaching strategies.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning is a an educational proposal that combines learning and community service processes in a single and well-articulated project in which participants are educated while they work on real needs of the community with the aim of improving it (Puig and Palos, 2006). 

Participating in SL projects means contributing to the improvement of social reality while leading to the development of specific skills related to the different subjects in which they are used, as well as general abilities, such as the capacity for team work, management skills, analytical skills, problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, social abilities for leadership, autonomy, interpersonal skills relations, ethical commitment, adjustment to new situations (Opazo et al, 2016). 

Puig, J. M., & Palos, J. (2006). Rasgos pedagógicos del Aprendizaje-Servicio [Pedagogical Features of Service-Learning]. Cuadernos de Pedagogía, 357, 60-63.

Opazo, H., Aramburuzabala, P., & Cerrillo, R. (2016). A Review of the Situation of Service-Learning in Higher Education in Spain. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Cooperative Education17(1), 75-91.

Service Learning Four Stage Schema

  • Preparation- Preparation involves a variety of activities, including identifying a community need, establishing a goal/objective for the service-learning project, establishing the knowledge and/or skills necessary for the project, and determining resources and activities necessary for the project (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Kaye, 2004).
  • Implementation-Implementation of service-learning should include frequent connections of the project to academic content (Cress et al., 2005).
  • Assessment/Reflection- Cooks and Scharrer (2006) presented several methods for assessing students’ social learning that included interviews, focus groups, journal assignment analysis, and analysis of videotaped interactions.
  • Demonstration/Celebration- Kaye (2004) defines the final stage of demonstration as allowing students the opportunity to discuss and openly exhibit their work through different formats such as displays, performances, and presentations.
Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 67(2), 221-239.
Kaye, C.B. (2004). The complete guide to service learning: Proven, practical ways to engage students in civic responsibility, academic curriculum, and social action. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
Cress, C.M., Collier, P.J., Reitenauer, V.L., & Associates. (2005). Learning through service. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Cooks, L., & Scharrer, E. (2006). Assessing learning in community service learning: A social approach. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13(1), 44-55.

Service Learning Research

The ABCDs of Service-Learning: Who Is Serving Whom?  ​Historically, one of the primary goals of service-learning was to prepare undergraduate students to become engaged citizens and to introduce them to the challenges experienced by individuals from marginalized or disenfranchised communities Now, 25 years after the implementation of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, many universities are shifting this focus to include meeting community needs, accomplishing graduate and undergraduate student learning outcomes, and establishing reciprocity of respect. Lieberman, D. (2014). The ABCDs of Service-Learning: Who Is Serving Whom? Journal Of Higher Education Outreach & Engagement, 18(4), 7-15.

A Checklist for Implementing Service-Learning in Higher Education. This article provides a framework for including service-learning in education courses and introduces an innovative checklist to guide and evaluate service learning as an instructional strategy. Jenkins, A., & Sheehey, P. (2011). A Checklist for Implementing Service-Learning in Higher Education. Journal Of Community Engagement & Scholarship, 4(2), 52-60.

Curricular Placement of Academic Service-Learning in Higher Education. This study offers a summary of curricular placement themes from the service-learning literature and reviews findings from a survey of two national service-learning electronic mailing lists about intentional decision making related to departmental curricular placement of service-learning. Phillips, A., Bolduc, S. R., & Gallo, M. (2013). Curricular Placement of Academic Service-Learning in Higher Education. Journal Of Higher Education Outreach & Engagement, 17(4), 75-96.

Service learning as innovative pedagogy in online learning. This paper discusses the intentions and outcomes of a service-learning course in LIS. Interviews with students who had recently completed the course provided insight into how the course had changed their perspective on their community. The interviews sought students' perspectives on their own empathetic development, sense of community, and impediments in completing the course.Bossaller, J. S. (2016). Service learning as innovative pedagogy in online learning. Education For Information, 32(1), 35-53. doi:10.3233/EFI-150962


What is service-learning and how is it different from volunteering?