By Harmony Cox and Ola Ahlqvist, Ohio State’s Service-Learning Initiative
“Bringing the skills and caring of Ohio State’s faculty, staff, and students to bear on the needs of the community is one of the proudest parts of our land-grant mission. What is required of us is the will to work together to improve lives and to enrich communities throughout Ohio and well beyond.”
– E. Gordon Gee
On November 28th, the Service-Learning Initiative partnered with UCAT to provide a workshop on getting started with service-learning. Service-Learningis a form of experiential education where learning goals are tied to a meaningful service experience, and provides a key part of fulfilling Ohio State’s land-grant mission of academic excellence and community service. There are over 70 courses at Ohio State that have a service-learning component, and service-learning is available in disciplines ranging from theater to dentistry. Here’s how a typical service-learning course works:
- Course Creation: Identify an opportunity for community service in a new or existing course. Service opportunities vary from course to course, but you can find good examples of what they are and how students participate on our Digital Stories page. Find a community partner and work with them to develop the service opportunity. A good service-learning partnership is mutually beneficial, with both the learning goals of the course and the needs of the community partner being met.
- Course participation: Service-Learning requires both rigorous academic work and a meaningful service experience. Students will generally meet in the classroom for instruction, and then spend a set number of hours at the community partner’s site working on a structured service activity.
- Reflection: This is an essential aspect of the course that allows students to make connections between the classroom and the community. Students are encouraged to put their service experience into the context of the academic course work, and to consider the skills and interests they’ve begun to develop. Reflection can take on a variety of forms, including in-class discussions, journals, essays, presentations, and multimedia projects. This gives students the opportunity to understand how their service work fits into a larger academic context, and the way the things they learn in the classroom can apply to the world around them.
There are hundreds of resources out there to help you plan and facilitate a course, including many on our website. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you get started:
- What’s your idea for a service-learning course? What do you want students to learn, and how can service help them learn it?
- How does the service aspect work in your course? Is it confined to a single academic term, or can it go on past the end of the course? Are students meant to learn specific professional skills, or more general skills like critical thinking? What kinds of logistics will make the service experience possible (travel, orientation to the service site, etc.)?
- How can you show that the course is successful? How can a student show that they’re meeting learning goals and also gaining skills from their service experience? Can you develop an assessment strategy that shows this in a clear way? How will your community partnership be involved in the assessment process?
If you need assistance, the Service-Learning Initiative is here to help! This year, we are offering grants of up to $4,000 for the development and enrichment of service-learning courses. Grantees will have the opportunity to participate in a service-learning focused Course Design Institute in partnership with UCAT. If you are hoping to develop a great service-learning course, we strongly encourage you to visit our website and apply!We also offer a number of other resources, including more workshops in partnership with UCAT, assistance in getting courses approved for the S-Designation and GE Open Option, and one-on-one consultation.
Need more information? Feel free to contact us. We hope you’ll join us in being a part of the tradition of service here at Ohio State!