What are the key elements in Service Learning?

The critical elements are:

  • Requires students to spend time engaged in the community.
  • Service activities have a clear connection to the course objectives.
  • Collaboration with the community, with a sense of reciprocity where both the community and students benefit.
  • Provides the means for structured critical reflection.

What is the criteria for a Service Learning site?

The definition of a Service Learning site can be understood as a place within the community, off campus, and where students, staff, or health care providers are guests.

Some criteria for a Service Learning site are:

  • An organization or group doing work in service with or for the community.
  • Existing partnership or new partnership, which is not a typical clinical setting like a private or community hospital.
  • Schools or service clubs.
  • Outreach or missions’ programs or projects.
  • Non-profit organizations.
  • Senior care facility or other residential care facility.
  • Community Centers, Family Resource Centers, or other Resource provider agencies.
  • A site listed above, where a reciprocal agreement and collaboration can occur.

NOTE: SL sites should provide environments that challenge student’s comfort by exposing the students to different social, economic, racial, cultural, and religious contexts.

How many hours are required for Service Learning?

Loma Linda University has a broad expression of Service Learning through the number of hours served. This means that each Service Learning course will determine their own number of hours the students engage in the community. Although the minimum is five hours, it often becomes a challenge to garner all the elements of Service Learning with a very limited time in the community; therefore many courses have upwards of twenty hours or more.

The rationale behind the hours of activity, is to provide ample time engaging with the community. Once the students are engaged with the community and actively serving, often hours become less important than the service that can be completed, and enhanced, if more time were devoted to the community partner. Service Learning is meant to ensure the time with the community fosters a desire to continue to serve, rather than just completing a required number of hours.

What is reciprocity in Service Learning?

Reciprocity is where both parties, students and community partners, benefit from the service activity. Reciprocity can be initiated by the student, by learning the community partner’s goals and objectives, and learning the need within the community that the community partner is addressing.

The posture of reciprocity maintains a learning perspective, where the students are learning from the community, as well as the community will learn from the student. Both are co-learners and co-educators.

Each service-learning course will identify their own method of ensuring reciprocity, but the pedagogy of service-learning promotes a balanced approach to the benefit in the the service activity. Collaboration becomes an essential part of Service Learning, as the reciprocal relationship develops through the activities assigned.

Service-Learning courses often have a communication plan to ensure the students and faculty are meeting the goals and objectives of the community partner. Reciprocity can be done at an organizational level between LLU and the community partner, at a faculty level where the faculty maintain the ongoing relationship with the community partner through the student’s engagement, and the student level where the students learn the needs, goals, and work with people at the grass-roots level.

How is Academic Service Learning different than volunteer work?

Academic Service Learning differs from volunteer work, in that volunteer work does not require any academic preparation or reflection as part of the service. Volunteer work can be a one-time event or an ongoing commitment, however unlike academic Service Learning it does not require an ongoing assessment of the service.

Academic Service Learning is also different from volunteer work because of the added scholastic requirements not found in volunteer work; such as in-class peer discussions, oral presentations and reflections, and research as it relates to the course.

Academic Service Learning is learning content of a course, while working in the community; volunteer work is straight service. Therefore service-learning is connected to a course, where volunteer work doesn’t require a course to fulfill the service activity.