Teaching & Curriculum Development

Course Design

Effective and high-quality service learning requires more than the proverbial “add service and stir” approach to designing courses and programs.

As a dimension of university-community engagement, service learning can be defined as a “course or competency-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students:

  1. participate in mutually identified service activities that benefit the community, and
  2. reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility.” (Bringle and Clayton, 2012, adapted from Bringle and Hatcher, 1995—references)

Instructors interested in using service learning as a dimension of their teaching toolkit can use this experiential pedagogy most effectively when they intentionally draw on the Principles of Good Practice in Service Learning  (Howard, 2001) course design.

The Nine Principles of Effective Service Learning
  • Principle 1

    Academic credit is for learning, not for service.

  • Principle 2

    Do not compromise academic rigor.

  • Principle 3

    Establish learning objectives.

  • Principle 4

    Establish criteria for the selection of service placements.

  • Principle 5

    Provide educationally sound learning strategies to harvest community learning and realize course learning objectives.

  • Principle 6

    Prepare students for learning from the community.

  • Principle 7

    Minimize the distinction between the students’ community learning role and classroom learning role.

  • Principle 8

    Rethink the faculty instructional role.

  • Principle 9

    Be prepared for variation in, and some loss of control with, student learning outcomes.

More Information

Learn more about elements of service learning course design: