Types of Service Learning Categories

Service Learning: What Type of Program Does your School Follow?

Posted in Blog on 15 June 2016

With the definition of “service‐learning” varying from school to school, it’s not surprising that the way service learning is understood and implemented also varies.

According to Andrew Furco, in his paper, “Service-Learning”: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education” some educators view “service‐learning” as a new term that reveals a rich, innovative, pedagogical approach for more effective teaching, while others consider it as simply another term for well‐established experiential education programs.

This is important because it is based on how the school views and defines service learning, that the program is outlined. Let’s look at some of the ways service learning is understood by schools:

Volunteerism: With volunteerism, service is provided without any expectation of recompense in mind. The main beneficiaries are those served by the student. This is a simple, altruistic form of service where the student focuses on the social benefit and how they can use what they have learned in classrooms to make a difference to the society they live in.

Community Service: While similar to volunteerism, community service involves a more structured program and coordination to make an impact as opposed to volunteerism. Students therefore have to plan and organize themselves and their project in order to make a visible impact.

Social Internships: Internships have traditionally provided students with experience in various fields of work; but in this case students that look for a service-oriented internship often gain a measurable benefit and can use this experience while applying to colleges or showcasing leadership skills.

Field Education: Field education often works like an extended internship program. Again the objective here is to gain extensive working experience in a service related environment, such as education (through tutoring) or healthcare (through part-time hospital assistance).

The Key is Academic Integration

A true Service Learning program differentiates itself by ensuring a key connection to academic education. Unlike the above programs, a proper service‐learning program integrates service into the course itself. For example, physics students learning the principals of motion, could apply their understanding to generate free electricity for a park or shelter. You can find more examples of services learning programs here.

The objective of the service learning program is dual: to make students understand the practical benefits of what they are learning in the classroom, while impacting their community in a positive way.

So if you’re considering integrating a service learning program with your course this year, keep in mind your definition before detailing the objectives.


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