A Season of Service: Service-Learning Projects Strengthen Student and Teacher Outcomes
“Student service learning refers to learning that actively involves students in experiences that often benefit others and the community...”
For many, the holidays represent a season for giving and spending time with family and friends. We emphasize selflessness and giving to those in need during the holiday season. Incorporating this same spirit into the classroom through service-learning projects benefits both recipients and students. Student service learning refers to learning that actively involves students in experiences that often benefit others and the community while also supplementing the curriculum through experiential learning and reflection.1-3
How can incorporating a service-learning project benefit students?
Student 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.4
Research demonstrates positive student outcomes related to service learning, including improved social-emotional functioning, increased academic motivation and achievement, and enhanced civic engagement.5,6
In schools with ongoing service-learning programs, both teachers and students report more positive school climates and feelings of greater connectedness to the school.1,3,6
So how can I get started?
Students may be able to provide any of the four types of service: direct, indirect, research, and advocacy.5 Direct Service may include volunteering or cleaning up a park. Indirect Service includes activities such as fundraising or collections. Advocacy requires speaking up for or against an issue. Research involves finding out new information that informs or demands action.
Many tools exist to help plan and organize projects so that both student learning and service experiences achieve the best results. Here are some valuable, free resources to guide your planning:
- The National Youth Leadership Council's K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice Handout for educators provides evidence-based guidance created in partnership with the RMC Research Corporation.
- Lift: Raising the Bar for Service-Learning Practice (NYLC) features videos on location with school administrators, teachers, and students talking about the goals, planning, challenges and rewards of their projects.
- Learning to Give offers lessons, units, and resources for teaching about philanthropy and skills for giving back to the community. Lessons are standards-based and searchable by content and grade level.
- The PARE (Preparation, Action, Reflection and Evaluation) Model Handout offers guidance on how to connect service-learning experiences with critical reflections on personal values, character, and decision-making processes to effect long-term impact on student development.
- Chicago Public Schools Social Science and Civic Engagement Tool Kit for teachers provides background information on service learning, a planning tool guide, a rubric for assessing students’ participation, and a steps to reflection guide.
“Research demonstrates positive student outcomes related to service learning, including improved social-emotional functioning...”
How Are You Serving?
Do you have a successful student service-learning project you would like to share? Tweet us @TxSchoolSafety using the hashtag #TxStudentService.
1 Billig, S. (2000). Research on K-12 school-based service-learning: The evidence builds. The Phi Delta Kappan, 81(9), 658-664.
2 Conway, J. M., Amel, E. L., & Gerwien, D.P. (2009). Teaching and learning in the social context: A meta-analysis of service learning's effects on academic, personal, social, and citizenship outcomes. Teaching of Psychology, 36(4), 233-245.
3 National Youth Leadership Council. (2010). Getting started in service-learning: An elementary through high school handbook (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council.
4 National Service Learning Clearinghouse. Retrieved from: https://community-wealth.org/content/national-service-learning-clearinghouse
5 Kaye, C. B. (2010). The complete guide to service learning: Proven, practical ways to engage students in civic responsibility, academic curriculum, and social action. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub.
6 Wilczenski, F. L., & Coomey, S. M. (2007). A practical guide to service learning strategies for positive development in schools. New York: Springer.