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Designing an Effective Service-Learning Course and Meaningful Syllabus


Designing an Effective Service-Learning Course and Meaningful Syllabus Maureen Rubin California State University, Northridge Innovative Educators Webinar – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Designing an Effective Service-Learning Course and Meaningful Syllabus

Designing an Effective Service-Learning Course
and Meaningful Syllabus
  • Maureen Rubin
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Innovative Educators Webinar
  • October 24, 2009

Program Outline
  • Is service-learning right for you?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Plan weekly learning and service activities.
  • Put them together in syllabus.
  • Unique service-learning assignments

Is Service-Learning Right for You?
  • It's not for every instructor and
  • it's not for every course
  • Consider
  • Advantages and disadvantages, challenges and
    opportunities of the pedagogy, where it fits in
    students academic plan.

What Do You Want to Accomplish?
  • Be very specific in identifying 1-3
    student-learning outcomes you want your students
    to accomplish by participating in the
    service-learning portion of the class.
  • Make sure the service enhances the learning and
    is not extraneous to your student learning

Some things to consider
  • Developmental appropriateness
  • Group or individual work?
  • Who selects community partner?
  • What skills do students need/have?
  • Everyone at same site at same time?
  • Students choose from several options?

  • 10 Sample Student Learning Outcomes

1. Help students understand course content
  • Assist students in learning course content
    through the practical application of concepts
    learned in class Tax preparation

2. Promote social responsibility and civic
  • Help students understand concepts such as power
    differentials or privilege Electrical
    engineering (Lumens)
  • Encourage students to probe problems for their
    symptoms or causes Environmental Health
    (Healthy Homes)

3. Increase understanding of the importance of
your discipline to society
  • Transmit understanding that your discipline
    connects with life in the real world Interior
    Design (Design jury room)
  • Help students to see practitioners in your
    discipline as activists and contributors to the
    public good Finance (Campus auxiliary investment)

4. Increase awareness of community
  • Increase students knowledge of community issues,
    needs, strengths, problems and resources
    Sociology (gang prevention)
  • Identify community-based public and private
    programs that provide assistance and advocacy
    Sociology (Yellow pages project)

5. Enhance commitment to service
  • Improve students attitude to service Genetics
    (Special Olympics)

6. Promote Career Development
  • Expose students to career opportunities to help
    them make career decisions --Freshman seminar

7. Develop self-awareness
  • Expose them to options and points of view other
    than their own Journalism (Public relations

8. Increase sensitivity to diversity
  • Help students understand the wealth of diversity
    in their community Art or computer programs

9. Develop communication skills
  • Learn to collaborate and negotiate to resolve
    conflict JusticeCorps

10. Increase critical thinking
  • Improve ability to think, apply information to
    problem solving and analyze information data and
    concepts Kinesiology

  • Plan Weekly Learning and Service Activities

(No Transcript)
Plan Community Collaboration
  • All at the same site at the same time
  • Students choose from limited, pre-screened list.
    Community partners invited to come to first class
    to recruit and answer questions.
  • Students select own site and write proposal.

Successful Courses
  • Blend service and academic content
  • Do not treat service-learning as an add-on, but
    as an integral part of each class
  • Cross-fertilize assignments

Assignment and Outcomes Planner 300-level
Genetics course
Student Learning Objectives Service Objective What is Due Today?
Week 1 Increase awareness of community Assist population with genetic diseases
Content Lecture Topic Chromosomes Special Needs Populations Paperwork
Service Learning Lecture Link Why service-learning?
Reading Chapter 1 textbook Profiles of community sites Complete reading
Assignment Select partner Paperwork explaining partner selection
Additional Assignment
Reflection Write Journal Entry 1 and post on web Why did you pick this partner? Web journal posted and comments made
A s s I g nm e n t s
Do the same outline for every week
  • Content Lecture
  • Service-Learning Link Lecture
  • Readings
  • Content
  • Service-Learning
  • Assignment(s)
  • At site
  • For class
  • Reflection

Syllabus Elements
  • Course Information (Units, location, class
    number, meeting days and times)
  • Instructor information (Office, phone, office
    hours, email, website, emergency information)
  • Course Description include definition of

More Syllabus Elements
  • Student learning objectives
  • At the conclusion of this course, you will be
    able to
  • Course content basic academic elements
  • Student Performance Evaluation explain elements
    that will constitute grade

And Some More
  • Grading Scale
  • Daily plan
  • Todays agenda
  • Whats due today?
  • Whats going to be due next week?
  • Attendance policy
  • Legal/ethical statements (Students with
    disabilities, plagiarism warning, tentative
    nature of syllabus).

Under Course Description
  • The purpose of this course is to
  • Match with University mission
  • Meeting accreditation standards
  • Build resumes
  • Departmental curriculum goals
  • Spell out learning objectives and how they are
    critical elements of college education

Definition of service-Learning
  • A course-based, credit-bearing educational
    experience in which students participate in an
    organized service-learning activity that meets
    identified community needs and reflect on the
    service activity in such a way as to gain further
    understanding of course content, a broader
    appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced
    sense of civic responsibility. Bringle and

Example - Grading
  • Sample Elements
  • Lecture/discussion exams and quizzes
  • Attendance in class and at community site
  • Community partners evaluation
  • Peer evaluations
  • Content papers
  • Service-Learning journals
  • Deliverable
  • Oral presentation

Unique service-learning elements - Reflection
What Is Reflection?
  • Planned activities designed to help students
    process their service experience in a thoughtful
  • Integrate service into the heart of the course to
    promote desired learning outcomes
  • The glue that ties the learning to the service
  • Dynamic process that involves critical thinking,
    analysis, evaluation, problem solving, mediation
    and reasoning

What Does Current Research Say about It?
  • The instructors ability to connect the
    community-based service experience to classroom
    activities and other graded assignments is the
    most important variable for successful
  • Intentional structured activities that offer
    students opportunities to examine and analyze
    their cognitive and affective learning
    (individually and/or in groups) are key.

What are the Essential Elements? The 5 Cs
  • Connection feeling and thinking learning is
    not compartmentalized into college and community.
  • Continuity- must occur before, during and after
    the service experience.
  • Context should be used to solve problems with
    the tools, concepts and facts of the particular
  • Challenge - current perspectives must be examined
    and conflicts resolved.
  • Coaching Students need emotional support, need
    to feel safe develop alternative explanations
    for experience and observations and question
    their original interpretations.

  • Eyler Giles (1999)

How Is It Done?
  • Through specific activities designed to assist
    the student in processing the service-learning
  • Many, many paths
  • Journals
  • Think pieces and creative expression
  • Role playing
  • Writing assignments

Structured Reflection Journals
  • Journals that pose different questions throughout
    the semester (Eyler 2001)
  • Journals that pose the same questions after each
  • Journals mixed with mini-analysis papers
    (Azusa-Pacific University, 1999)
  • Three-part journals (observe, feel, connect)
  • Journals tied to lecture and reading
  • Interactive web- based journals with classmates
    or community partners


Think Pieces and Creative Expression
  • Write a play
  • Write a letter to yourself, seal it, leave it
    with instructor. At semesters end reread it and
    write about change
  • Make a video
  • Write a poem or song
  • Compose a travelogue
  • Write a letter to the editor, government agency,
  • Take photos
  • Draw or paint a scene

Role Play
  • Bring a community partner to class and have them
    create or reenact a typical or challenging
    service experience
  • Divide students into groups and have each one act
    out a different roles played by various
    populations involved in service experience (i.e.
    service-recipients, agency staff, professor,
    government agency, student, etc.)

Writing Assignments
  • Interpret quotes
  • A cynical young person is almost the saddest
    sight to see because it means that he or she has
    gone from knowing nothing to believing in
  • --Maya Angelou
  • Community commentary
  • Describe a scene in the community
  • What story does it tell?
  • What does it say about the community?
  • What does this scene mean to you and why?
  • If the scene were a painting, what title would
    you give it?

  • Seifer, Serene and Connors, Kara,
    Community-Campus Partnerships for Health for
    Learn and Serve Americas National
    Service-Learning Clearinghouse Faculty Toolkit
    for Service-Learning in Higher Education.
  • National Service Learning Clearinghouse