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1. What is Service Learning (what is not)?
Service learning is a structured experience in which students participate in and reflect upon a community service activity for university credit. The experience is related to a specific, targeted area of study in the curriculum. The goal is to improve students’ understanding of the discipline while also developing their sense of civic responsibility.
Service Learning vs Volunteering & Internships
In general, volunteering, internships and service learning overlap in some areas; however, it is service learning's foundation in pedagogy that separates it from the others. As a volunteer a student would work in a soup kitchen for a day. As a service-learner he or she must also go home and think about why soup kitchens exist, what type of people are at the soup kitchen, what are the circumstances that led them there, if soup kitchens should exist or be reformed in some way, etc.
As an intern the student is encouraged to network, gain job skills, and associate "book learning" with the outside world in order to help them find work after graduation. As a service-learner the student engages in a partnership with the community in order to gain the skills necessary for working with diversified groups of people.
So while internships, volunteering and service learning afford students the opportunity to help the community or gain work skills, service learning adds several elements: a partnership between the community and the volunteer/student; reflection on the part of the student, the community, and the institution involved; a connection between the volunteer experience and a student's credit bearing academic coursework.
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