The functional area of service-learning is currently emerging as an acknowledged department at an institution of higher education. The theoretical roots of service learning go back to John Dewey, and the early twentieth century. However, current research on service-learning pedagogy dates back only to the early 1990’s. Best practices for the field are still being created as more and more new offices are springing up on campuses throughout the United States and institutions internationally. The reason this functional area is becoming ever popular is due to the positive impact it has on students and most all educational outcomes.
Service-learning is considered both academic and co-curricular. Academic service learning is credit bearing and co-curricular being non-credit bearing. There have been several definitions of service-learning established, all by reputable authors in the field. Eyler and Giles (1999) cite Jane Kendall as stating there are 147 definitions of service-learning. One of the most comprehensive definitions is stated by Wajert (1998) and says academic service learning consists of six elements. Three are community based, and three are campus based.
“On the community side: the student provides some meaningful service (work), that meets a need or goal that is defined by a community. On the campus side: the service provided by the student flows from and into the course objective, is integrated into the course by means of assignments that require some form of reflection on the service in light for course objectives, and the assignment is assessed and evaluated accordingly” (p. 5).
Eyler and Giles (1999) suggest that there is significance in the hyphen between service and learning and that is where the definition lies. Service-learning is reciprocation between academic content and community service.
Research shows the community service and service-learning impact a student in college. The biggest impact is with the students’ civic engagement. However, outcomes of service- learning do not end there. Outcomes of service-learning range from academic to moral to life skills and all outcomes that fall within (Eyler & Giles, 1999).
Some of the academic based outcomes of college that are impacted by service-learning include knowledge application, content understanding, critical thinking, and even grade point average. Astin and Sax (1998) identified ten academic outcomes affected by service participation, and all ten were positively affected by service. In their study, grade point average, retention, aspirations for educational degrees, graduate school prep, general knowledge, discipline knowledge, time devoted to studying, extra credit, and faculty contact all showed varying increases due to service participation.
Eyler and Giles (1999) discuss how students in their study perceived themselves to identify social issues easier due to service-learning participation, which is the first step in critical...