Integrating Service Learning

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is an academic program which enables students to perform meaningful community service related to their courses. Each semester, many professors at NC State University offer their students a service option as a means to learn in practice what they are learning in theory in the classroom. Agencies and schools in the community benefit from the services provided by the students and become partners in their education as well. Service learning classes are offered in many departments and demonstrate the creative expertise of faculty committed to extending disciplinary work into local communities.

At the request of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and the Vice Chancellor for Extension, Engagement and Economic Development, the Committee on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Courses at NC State was formed in early 2012 to develop a series of suggestions concerning the formal recognition of academic course-based service-learning at NC State.  The findings of that group can be found in this Service Learning report.

Service Learning vs. Volunteerism vs. Internships

Teaching a service-learning course is very rewarding, but differs from a “typical” course. Service-learning courses involve integrating academic coursework with community service. Instructors are responsible for making sure what is learned in the classroom can be applied to students’ real life service work and that students can apply their real life service work back into the classroom. A list of key resources is provided below. The resources address the following topics/components of teaching a service-learning course:

  • Overview of Teaching Service-Learning
  • Getting Started
  • Syllabi
  • Reflection
  • Assessment & Evaluation


Overview of Teaching Service-Learning

APPLES Service-Learning at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: Faculty Page – provides a course instructor guide that highlights how to teach a service-learning course
Vanderbilt Service-Learning: Teaching Guides – provides a list of valuable resources for teaching service-learning
Michigan State Center for Service Learning and Civic-Engagement – provides an overview of key areas in service-learning that faculty should know about
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis: Teaching Tools – provides a list of helpful tools for teaching service-learning


Getting Started

Sometimes the idea of starting something new can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is helpful to understand where to begin. The following sites can help you develop your course and integrate service learning concepts:

101 Ideas for Combining Service and Learning – provides a list of how to integrate service and learning in various disciplines
What questions should I ask to get started with service-learning? – provides a list of good questions to ask when developing a service-learning course
Tips for Developing  a Service Learning Class – provides a list of commonly asked faculty and student questions about service-learning
How to Make Service into Service-Learning – explains how to make service into service-learning
Resources for Developing a SVL Course – provides a list of useful resources in developing a service-learning course



In order to have a successful service-learning course, it is critical to have a well developed syllabus. The following sites explain how to create a service-learning syllabus and provide examples:

Campus Compact: Syllabi – provides a list of example syllabi for different disciplines
Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne: Syllabus Development Guidelines – describes guidelines that should be used for developing a service-learning syllabus
Loyola University of Chicago: Course Development – describes the fundamental components of a service-learning course that should be incorporated into a syllabus



One of the most important components of a service-learning course is reflection. Students need the opportunity to reflect upon how their service experience integrates into their classroom experience. The following sites provide information on how to integrate reflection into a service-learning course:

The Generator School Network – online community of more than 5,000 youth and adult members who have discovered how they can change the world through service-learning
Facilitating Reflection: A Manual for Leaders and Educators – provides a guideline on facilitating reflection and gives examples of reflection activities
Chaminade Reflection: Service-Learning Reflection – describes the importance of reflection and a guideline on reflection writing
California State University Channel Islands: Reflection – provides a list of different reflection questions to ask over the course of a term and a guideline on reflection journal writing
Service-Learning Reflection Activities – provides a list of activities that facilitate reflection


Assessment & Evaluation

In any course it is important to assess and evaluate how students are doing and how teaching methodologies are working. This is especially true in a service-learning course because students are partaking in a different type of learning process than they are used to in a “typical” course. The following sites will aid in creating tools and developing procedures for assessment and evaluation:

National Service-Learning Partnership – provides a variety of articles and resources on assessment and evaluation
Assessing Service-Learning – Virginia Assessment Group resources on how to assess service-learning
Assessment and Service-Learning – provides a training module on using assessment in service-learning

 For More Information, Please See the Resources Section