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WKU Center for Citizenship & Social Justice

Service Learning

Service-learning can be described as “learning by doing while helping others.” It is considered a form of experiential learning in which students participate in an organized activity that meets learning objectives and identified community needs at the same time. In service-learning classes, students work in the community on issues that make education relevant and exciting. Course content, such as training, lectures, and readings, improve the quality of student service projects. In turn, the service experience enhances the classroom dialogue, skill development, application of knowledge, and student learning. Service-learning may take the form of community placements, projects, or community-based research.


Three Integral Components of Service-Learning: 

1. Meaningful Service: Students and faculty work with community organizations or community leaders to identify a project or activity that addresses a real community need and/or contributes to the necessary work of a community organization.

2. Applied Learning: Students apply academic knowledge and critical thinking skills. The project or activity is directly related to course learning goals. The project contributes to the students’ understanding and/or practice of academic concepts or skills.

3. Reflection: Students participate in a structured reflection and assessment process which facilitates the integration of the service experience and learning goals, leads to a deeper understanding, and helps transform the experience into meaningful learning.


As long as all three of these components are present, service-learning can take place in both curricular and co-curricular formats. Co-curricular service-learning can be conducted by individual students, student groups, or student organizations. On the other hand, Curricular Service Learning is a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets a community need and reflect on their service activity as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, an enhanced sense of civic responsibility and/or a greater interest in and understanding of community life.[1]

[1] Based on Bringle & Hatcher, Implementing Service-Learning in Higher Education, 1996, and Jacoby, Service-learning in today’s higher education, 1996

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 Last Modified 10/19/17