What is Service-Learning?
Service-Learning is course-based community service that links directly to academic assignments. Credit is not typically awarded for service hours but rather for assignments (essays, journals, projects, presentations, portfolios, etc.) tied to the service. Service-learning is considered a contextual learning method in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs while providing information or experience which helps students meet course objectives. Reflection on the service activity is an integral part of service-learning. Reflection should help students “gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Bringle and Hatcher).
As part of their search for identity and meaning, Samford students are widely involved in various kinds of community service, through their fraternities and sororities, through their churches, and through Students Ministries. For many of them acting as servants is fruit of their Christian faith. In contrast to service, service-learning is not so easily defined. Many proponents of service would argue that “learning” takes place whenever one is engaged in service. But within the academic realm, service-learning is when community service directly feeds back into the curriculum in some way; in other words, service-learning is course-based community service. Beyond allowing students to become better people or deepen their Christian faith, there is hard evidence that service-learning, especially in a student’s major, raises grade point averages, writing skills, critical thinking, commitment to activism, commitment to promoting racial understanding, self-efficacy, leadership activities and leadership ability, interpersonal skills, choice of a service career, and plans to participate in service after college (How Service-Learning Affects Students, Astin et al, January 2000). From simply a functional point of view, relating learning to the real world brings the subject matter to life and aids in retention of knowledge. Service-learning puts “feet” to theory.