Service learning combines service to the community with learning outside the classroom. Schools throughout the country are striving to implement service learning along the entire K-12 continuum.
Service learning has acquired several different meanings. For instance, some high schools have instituted a requisite that all students must perform a certain number of hours of community service.
Other schools have implemented service learning as a part of their ongoing curriculum. This may include class, team, or individual exercises and assignments. For example, a project might revolve around cleaning up trash in a park, categorizing the waste, and determining its impact on the environment.
And some schools even employ programs in which individual students serve the community organizations that relate to their career interests.
How Service Learning Affects Education
Curriculum–Depending on the definition of service learning, there can be a significant impact on curriculum. Schools use service learning to provide meaning and context to the information taught. However, students that merely volunteer for community service hours may have little impact on what happens in the classroom. Those students who do see connections–or a lack of them–between the concepts learned and their real-world applications may pressure schools for curriculum changes of context and relevancy.
Instruction–Teachers may need to expand their own knowledge base to extend learning beyond the classroom. Teachers may also have to relinquish their perception as being the only source of information. The goals of instruction often change from amassing knowledge to using and applying knowledge in a real-world context.
Assessment–Service learning often changes the nature of assessment by focusing on the customer satisfaction of the organization students are serving. Teacher’s assessment can be either shared or replaced by assessors in the community who can provide more accurate feedback.