Service-Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices
By: Barbara Jacoby and Associates
Quick Outline of Main Points
Foreword (by Thomas Ehrlich)
Debate about the nature of liberal education (just prior to WWII):
(I) Robert Maynard Hutchins (and Mortimer J. Adler). Endorsement of a “great books” curriculum,
emphasis on intellectual study of fixed principles.
(II) John Dewey. Endorsement of a problem-based praxis. Worried about the dangers of obedience
to authority. Education as preparation for citizenship and democracy.
Book assumes Dewey was RIGHT, even though it appears that Hutchins WON the dispute (in terms of influence).
Service-learning = “is the various pedagogies that link community service and academic study so that each strengthens the other” (p. xi).
The basic concept is Dewey’s notion that genuine learning requires the interaction of knowledge and skills with experience.
For Dewey, learning begins with a problem, and moves forward to the application of increasingly more complex ideas and increasingly more sophisticated skills to solve increasingly more complex social problems.
Service-learning moving toward center stage in higher education (Campus Compact, National Society for Experiential Education).
Shift in higher education from teaching-centered to learning-centered, and also includes shifts: from discipline mastery to problems-based learning; from individual learning to collaborative learning.
In all, learning goals changed as well, to include links to civic responsibility and democracy (“citizenship skills” and character development become part of the learning goals of the course).
Service-learning got its start in applied and professional disciplines. Now there’s a clear link to general Liberal Education goals (even at tech colleges). Moreover, service-learning and new approaches to liberal education challenge the idea that “general education” classes are distinct from classes within a major. Service-learning is incorporated into the core classes of the specialized major as well (not just something that GDRs deal with).
Service-learning as a vehicle for higher education to reach its varied goals and mission for: (i) student learning and student development, and (ii) addressing larger community needs.
Student Benefits (p. xvii): critical reflection, deeper comprehension, increased understanding of social problems, development of social responsibility, enhancing cognitive, moral and spiritual development, understanding human difference; creative and collaborative problem-solving abilities.
Community Benefits (p. xvii): new energy and assistance to provide more (and new) services in the community, identifying and meeting human needs…
Service-learning can advance both of these goals/missions (thus allowing higher education to fulfill its social role in terms of students and community).
What distinguishes service-learning from other types of learning or service activities is the intentional integration of service and learning (in the form of a reciprocal relationship mediated by community partnerships and reflection activities).
Service-learning on campus includes faculty, student affairs (and student groups), and administrators.
What are the various audiences for this book? Faculty, student affairs administrators, academic affairs administrators, who academic institutions and communities (agencies, partners, etc.).
Part One: define service-learning, principles, theories of development, collaborations Part Two: examples / approaches, types of service-learning projects, types of campuses Part Three: organizational, administrative, and policies
Chapter 1: Service-Learning in Today’s Higher Education (Jacoby)
Renewed calls for Higher Education to get involved in communities.
At the same time, Higher Education is questioning its own internal goals (student learning)
Service-learning is at the cross-roads of these two trends
Service-learning defined (p. 5):
“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that
address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally
designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key
concepts of service-learning.”
Key terms / ideas:
The hyphenated term itself (“service-learning”) = equal emphasis
Community and needs defined by community
Curricular and cocurricular
Service-learning as a:
Program: to meet human/community needs
Philosophy: as a theory of human growth, a social (democratic) vision, a way of knowing
Pedagogy: experiential component
Higher Education’s Tradition of Service (p. 10). Higher education has always been tied to public good
(especially publicly-funded institutions, but also applies to church-sponsored colleges/universities).
Emergence of Service-Learning (p. 11): YMCA, 4-H, Scouting, Peace Corps, VISTA
Lessons Learned in 1960s / 1970s… 3 Pitfalls to be avoided (p. 13):
1. most service-learning programs were not integrated into central mission and goals. 2. “helping others” attitude was not balanced; assumed one-way benefit.
3. service experiences alone to not assure learning will occur, nor meaningful service provided.
Service-Learning Today (p. 13): Campus Compact, COOL, Wingspread Conference (3-volumes),
1990s University of Michigan (Praxis I, II, III), Michigan Journal of Service-Learning, Corporation for National Service (1993) and AmeriCorps.
Institutional Traditions, Approaches, and Models (p. 17):
Various types of educational manifestations:
from public…. to…. church-sponsored
from Student Affairs / student groups…. to … Academic Affairs
Moving from Community Service to Service-Learning (p. 19):
In times of limited budgets, higher education is asked to do more with less: to meet its goals/mission with respect to (a) student learning/student preparation as well as (b) participating in positive ways in local communities.
(Again, service-learning is something that will help to meet both goals at the same time.)
“good practices” with respect to student learning:
1. encourage student-faculty contact.
2. encourage cooperation among students.
3. encourage active learning.
4. give prompt feedback.
5. emphasizes time on task.
6. communicate high expectation.
7. respect diverse talents and ways of learning.
Another goal = encourage civic responsibility, citizenship, strengthening communities
Another goal = prepare students for life after college (job/career preparation). More focus on transferable skill sets (including the basic skills associated with service-learning that can occur in any discipline, such as critical thinking, creative and collaborative problem-solving, appreciation and respect of diversity, conflict resolution, etc.).
Chapter 2: Principles of Good Practice in Service-Learning (Mintz & Hesser)
Kaleidoscope metaphor/analogy: a dynamic framework
Practice-to-Principle-to-Practice (p. 27)
Based on the Practice-to-Theory-to-Practice idea…
But what are Principles? What are Practices? Why might each be valuable on their own?
The whole distinction between Practice and Theory (or Principles) is blurred by service-learning.
Some principles (sets of principles) for Service-Learning (p. 28):
Sigmon’s Principles (p. 28):
1. Those being served control the service(s) provided;
2. Those being served become better able to serve and be served by their own actions; and
3. Those who serve also are learners and have significant control over what is expected to be
Wingspread Principles (pp. 29-30):
1. Engages people in responsible and challenging actions for the common good.
2. Provides structured opportunities for people to reflect critically on their service experience.
3. Articulates clear service and learning goals for everyone involved.
4. Allows for those with needs to define those needs.
5. Clarifies the responsibilities of each person and organization involved.
6. Matches service providers and service needs through a process that recognizes changing
7. Expects genuine, active, and sustained organization commitment.
8. Includes training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition, and evaluation to meet service
and learning goals.
9. Insures that the time commitment for service and learning is flexible, appropriate, and in the
best interests of all involved.
10. Is committed to program participation by and with divers populations.
Critical Elements (p. 30):
; Community Voice:
; Orientation and Training:
; Meaningful Action:
Principles of Good Practice in Community Service-Learning Pedagogy (p. 31):
1. Academic credit is for learning, not for service.
2. Do not compromise academic rigor.
3. Set learning goals for students.
4. Establish criteria for the selection of community service placements.
5. Provide educationally-sound mechanisms to harvest the community learning.
6. Provide supports for students to learn how to harvest the community learning.
7. Minimize the distinction between the student’s community learning role an the classroom
8. Re-think the faculty instructional role.
9. Be prepared for uncertainty and variation in student learning outcomes.
10. Maximize the community responsibility orientation of the course.
Principles of Continuous Improvement (p. 32):
1. Our “customers” are the reason we exist. We must stay attuned to their needs and strive always
to exceed their expectations.
2. Volunteers, participants, and staff are customers too. They must be motivated, trained, and
satisfied if they are to serve our customers well.
3. It is not enough to talk about customer satisfaction. We must set measurable goals,
communicate to them throughout our organization, regularly and systematically gauge our
progress against these goals, and take action to continuously improve our performance.
4. Anytime we learn we are falling short, we have an opportunity to improve. Anytime we learn
we are meeting or exceeding standards, we have an opportunity to set higher standards.
5. Continuous improvement is the responsibility of everyone in our organization. It starts with a
willingness to learn from people within and outside our organization.
6. Effective communication within our organization is essential to continuous improvement. To
help improve the organization, staff must understand what customers value and how well
customers think the program is doing.
7. Constructive criticism is a positive step toward a solution, not a negative spotlight on a mistake.
We learn from our failures as well as from our successes.
8. Creating energized, empowered teams is the best catalyst for improving an organization.
Motivated teams can produce extraordinary results—results that exceed those achieved by
individuals or less cohesive groups.
The Kaleidoscope (p. 34):
Collaboration: defined, collective leadership, different interests, skills, knowledge, and abilities…
Reciprocity: balanced, mutually-beneficial, mutually-respectful…
Diversity: wide range of differences that = diversity (race, sex, gender, culture, religion, socio-economic, ages, geography, population density, sexual orientation, physical abilities, mental abilities, technology,
Using the kaleidoscope metaphor to evaluate/examine service-learning PRINCIPLES (p. 39): each
major aspect of service-learning (looking through a difference lens from a different perspective raises different critical/evaluative/diagnostic questions).
Nice list / examples on pages 41-44.
Alternative / corollary principles: (pages 44-45).
Using the kaleidoscope to assess the PRACTICES (p. 45): three specific examples: Minnesota, Colorado, Maryland.