Center for Community Engagement

Students can use this list of online resources to find information related to service-learning.

Definitions Related to Service Learning

Service Learning: Service learning is a pedagogical method the intention of which is to enhance the student's understanding of the course subject material by having the student engage the community in a way that allows her or him to test the theory learned in the course. The student performs some service for the community while, at the same time, gains a deeper understanding of the course material being taught.

Typically, students are not graded on the actual service performed as it is difficult to measure in academic terms the positive (or negative) impact students might have on the community as they do their service work. Students should be graded on their critical reflections on their service as related to the theoretical component of their coursework. Instructors may assign reflective essays, research papers, or other projects in which the students reflect critically on their service vis-à-vis their more traditional, theoretical learning.

Volunteerism: Volunteerism is the willful, non-coerced act of engaging the community in meaningful work that benefits the community. By definition, volunteerism is not service that is required but is, rather, service that is offered willingly. Volunteerism can take the form of an individual or groups serving the same community partner for an extended period of time or for a very brief time.

Hit-and-Run Volunteerism: Hit-and-run volunteerism is volunteerism that is done, usually on a one-time basis, with little or no follow-up after the service is rendered. Sometimes community partners need this sort of short-term help. Sometimes volunteers simply offer their services for a brief period of time and never return to the site whether further help is needed or not.

Community Service: Community service is any service rendered to the community in any form. Community service can take place in the form of volunteerism or through non-voluntary service as in service-learning courses or through court-mandated service.

Community Engagement: The term "community engagement" refers to a more focused effort on the part of those doing community service to enter into a partnership with the community to offer a service that is truly needed by the community. Implied in this term is the idea that the person doing the work in the community has personally engaged the community such that he or she cares about the need in the community and the effect her or his work will have on the community in the long term.