Original Date: 01/22/2001
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Service Learning
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.
Over the years, Americans have changed from being members of a society to members of an economy. Disengagement of citizenry is illustrated through fewer voters, decrease in current event discussions, increase in solitary lifestyles, feelings of powerlessness, and failure to see the need for collective action and beliefs. The lack of family values and priorities, perspective on public life, and skills of communication are becoming threats to family and community. In 1991, with seed money from the Corporation for National Service, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) began experiential education in Service Learning. Building on the experiences of other higher learning schools, the University tailored its program and coursework to fit the needs of its faculty, its students, and the community. In 1992, Service Learning became an integral part of the University’s educational process.
The Service Learning experience for the student must meet a community need; provide service to others; engage the student with hands-on learning; be neither partisan nor include fundraising activities; be linked to an academic course; and have pre-identified learning objectives, measurable outcomes, and written documentation. The result is that all parties benefit from Service Learning. Students get to experience relationships and their impact on the community, become more culturally aware of their environment, and understand what is required to be a responsible citizen. The University broadens its concept of education, improves linkages and partnerships within the community, and establishes a common thread of purpose across the curriculum. The community gains increased resources for problem solving as well as commitment and support from its future citizens. Today, Service Learning has been integrated into more than 15 courses at ETSU, plus ten other non-accredited, service-learning projects. The University has also begun partnering with high schools. A tracking system is in place to collect data to quantify results. In the meantime, the University continues to receive overwhelming accounts of positive feedback from students and faculty who have participated in the Service Learning courses.
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