The Center for Service and Learning (CSL) developed a framework (e.g., taxonomy) to assess student learning and to improve the quality of course design. After conducting an extensive literature review on service learning research and best practices, CSL identified six essential attributes of service learning courses. Next, CSL articulated a range of characteristics for each attribute (from level one to level three) based on research findings. CSL then obtained feedback from colleagues and content experts, presented a draft of the taxonomy through a webinar series sponsored by the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement, and made subsequent revisions.
The IUPUI taxonomy for service learning courses has the potential to contribute to the campus and to research on service learning because the taxonomy:
- Creates a common approach in working with instructors to support the fidelity and quality of high-impact teaching practices, including service learning courses.
- Supports institutional assessment and research on high-impact practices by asking instructors to report on selected course attributes and then explore the relationship between these course variables and student outcomes.
- Informs and advances a research agenda for service learning by identifying those course attributes (e.g., variables) that may relate to student outcomes, such as civic learning, academic learning, and personal growth, as well as other outcomes (e.g., faculty development, community impact, community partner collaboration, and satisfaction).
- Supports institutional and multicampus research on service learning courses through the use of a common taxonomy that describes variations in course attributes.
- Provides a framework and approach for other institutions to either adapt or adopt the taxonomy, depending upon how service learning is conceptualized within institutional mission and context.