Service-Learning: It’s all about the hyphen…

This week, PETAL sponsored a Brown Bag Lunch where Karen Peterson (English) and Dawn McKinney (Computer Science) led a discussion about service-learning.  The purpose of the meeting was to generate interest in a centralized campus-wide resource for promoting and supporting service-learning efforts at the University.  The turnout was overwhelming (although the appetite for pizza could have been a bit better-we had plenty left over), and the conversation was excellent.

Service-Learning is a movement that has been gaining a great deal of momentum over the last decade or so, and there is a growing sense that it should become more formally a part of the culture and curriculum here at South Alabama.

PETAL is fully behind and committed to this initiative, and we plan to make service-learning an integral part of our offerings next year in the form of additional Brown Bag Lunches and training workshops, as well as by offering administrative support to the initiative.

But what is service-learning?  There are many definitions floating around, but a simple definition is that it is a kind of experiential learning where students put their classroom learning to use in service to the community that involves a cycle of action and reflection.

The important point is that the service and learning goals are of equal importance in the process.  It is not just community service and it’s not just planning an activity.  It is both.

Sigmon (1996) presented the following typology that, I believe, is very effective in communicating the proper relationship between the two.

A Service and Learning Typology
service-LEARNING Learning goals primary; service outcomes secondary
SERVICE-learning Service outcomes primary; learning goals secondary
service learning Service and learning goals separate
SERVICE-LEARNING Service and learning goals of equal weight; each enhances the other for all participants

Finally, I think it is very important to consider the role of the hyphen, which is often left out of the term, in helping us remember the integral relationship between its two parts.  It can also be said to represent the reflection that is such a vital part of the experience.

Source: http://usapetal.net/wpmu/blog/2008/04/16/service-learning-it%E2%80%99s-all-about-the-hyphen%E2%80%A6/