Skip To Main Nav

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. 


Students in service-learning classes can benefit academically professionally, and personally. These are just a few of the ways: 

  • Increase your understanding of the class topic
  • Gain hands-on experience (possibly leading to an internship or job later)
  • Explore or cement your values and beliefs
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Grow your understanding of diverse cultures and communities
  • Learn more about social issues and their root causes
  • Improve your ability to handle ambiguity and be open to change; become more flexible
  • Develop or enhance your skills, especially in the areas of communication, collaboration, and leadership
  • Test out your skills interests, and values in a potential career path, or learn more about a field that interests you
  • Connect with professionals and community members who you will learn from
  • Grow a professional network of people you might connect with again later for jobs or internships
  • Satisfy urge to engage in public service or civic participation

Faculty can benefit personally and professionally from integrating service-learning into courses. Teaching with service-learning can:

  • Encourage interactive teaching methods and reciprocal learning between students and faculty
  • Add new insights and dimensions to class discussions
  • Lead to new avenues for research and publication
  • Promote students' active learning; engage students with different learning styles
  • Develop students' civic and leadership skills
  • Boost course enrollment by attracting highly motivated and engaged students
  • Provide networking opportunities with engaged faculty in other disciplines
  • Foster relationships between faculty and community organizations, which can open other opportunities for collaborative work
  • Provide firsthand knowledge of community issues; provide opportunities to be more involved in community issues 

Community Partners participating in service-learning can benefit in these ways:

  • Gain additional human resources needed to achieve organizational goals
  • Inject new energy, enthusiasm, and perspectives into the organization's work
  • Grow the organization's volunteer pool: service-learning students will share their experiences with friends and classmates
  • Increase public awareness of key issues
  • Reach out to youth/young adults-an important part of any organization's future support
  • Educate students about community issues: correct misperceptions
  • Help prepare today's students to be tomorrow's civic leaders
  • Network with colleagues in other organizations and agencies
  • Identify and access other university resources; build relationships with USU faculty, students, and staff


Core Elements of Service-Learning Courses:

Meaningful Service: It's important that the service-learning project meet a genuine need that is significant and recognized as important by both the participants and the community. The activity can include teaching others, creating a product or performance, providing a service, community-based research, or advocating for change

Connection to Learning: Effective service-learning establishes clear learning goals that require the application of concepts, content, and skills from the course and involves participants in the construction of their own knowledge.

Reflection: Reflection is the term for the processing of these experiences. It can take many forms, including essays, discussions, journals, presentations, creating a portfolio or filming a video. When reflecting students should consider:

     • WHAT? What service did I perform? What happened? What was learned?

     • SO WHAT? What was the result or benefit of the service rendered?

     • NOW WHAT? What will I do now? How can I continue to serve?