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Community-Based Experiential Education : Service Learning

Use this guide to find information for service learning, community service and related topics.


What is Service-Learning

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Service-learning provides college and university students with a “community context” to their education, allowing them to connect their academic coursework to their roles as citizens. Service-Learning is one type of Community Based Experiential Education. This overview of the history of Service-Learning in the United States will interest history buffs and service-learning enthusiasts alike: See History of S/L Document

Three Necessary Criteria for Academic Service-Learning

  • Relevant and meaningful service with the community
  • Enhanced academic learning
  • Purposeful civic learning

Excerpted from Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning - Service-Learning Course Design Book, pg. 12

Why Service-Learning

  • Quality service-learning experiences can:
  • Increase understanding of course material
  • Improve perspective of relevant social issues
  • Enable the application of skills to solve real-world problems
  • Foster civic responsibility
  • Strengthen university-community partnerships

Excerpts from Factors That Motivate and Deter Faculty Use of Service-Learning

Johnson & Wales University Project/Program Examples

Veazie Street School Leadership Mentoring Program: is a curriculum-based program with JWU LEAD2001 Foundations of Leadership Studies students teaching 5th-grade students from the Veazie Street School topics that are related to their own LEAD2001 studies. Examples of the topics include communication, respect/diversity, conflict resolution and teambuilding. Teaching the 5th-graders reinforces the materials for the JWU students while providing positive role models for the elementary school students.

Collaborative Learning Program (CLP): Students are a part of a first-year academic learning community at JWU that marries the degree specific classroom learning objectives for various majors with the learning objectives from English Department composition courses. Students are placed in a cohort where they are team taught by two faculty members (one from their major discipline and one from the English Department) throughout the fall and winter terms.  Students complete service-learning at a local non-profit and complete a major class project based on their experience. 

Digital Media Design Solutions: Graphic Design & Digital Media students may participate in an experiential education program known as the Web and Graphic Solutions Team. These students, using state-of-the-art equipment, create websites, identity kits, brochures, banners, logos, posters, and other collateral materials for community-based organizations.

Coastal Cleanups: Organized through nonprofits like Save the Bay or Audubon Society of RI; sometimes in conjunction with collecting water samples or other data on pollution.

MBA Strategic Communications:  Students act as consultants and create Strategic Communications proposals for CBO's. Proposals have included: marketing and business plans, fundraising research and recommendations, event plans, operational efficiency and effectiveness plans. Students have also created websites, brochures and social media plans.

Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI): Culinary students in Foundations of Leadership Studies volunteer alongside JWU chefs to provide three meals-a-day to local veterans in an outdoor military kitchen during the OSDRI weekend in September. Written reflection is built into the course content through journal assignments.

Where to Start

Developing a service-learning project can be beneficial for both your students and your class content. There are many resources available to help you get started. For detailed information, visit the How To Develop a CBEE Course Tab.



History of Service-Learning