Service Learning: More than Community Service

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Service learning, like apprenticeship and school-to-work, contextualizes student learning. It provides an environment in which students can acquire organizational, team, problem-solving, and other skills, attitudes, and capabilities necessary for future work and learning. This ERIC Digest looks at service learning: what it is and how it supports vocational and career development outcomes.

A Complement to School-to-Work and Other Federal Initiatives

Service learning is a work-based learning experience through which students learn, develop, and apply academic and vocational skills to address the real life needs of their local communities (Briscoe et al. 1996). It is a structured school-based experience of voluntary community service that stresses personal reflection about the service experience, and it is most often sponsored by schools, churches, youth organizations, and other such community groups (Hudson River Center for Program Development 1996).

Service learning has been classified as a form of work-based learning because it provides students with work-like experiences. It differs from school-based learning in that it actively engages students in producing goods or services, not in just learning about work or work-related issues (Hamilton and Hamilton 1997). It differs from school-to-work transition programs in that students receive no financial reward (Silcox 1995). However, because it integrates classroom learning with community service projects, service learning shares a commitment to the same outcomes as school-to-work (National School-to-Work Opportunities Office 1996).

Service learning and school-to-work efforts are both designed to connect students to their communities—service learning through community se...

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National School-to-Work Opportunities Office. School-to-Work and Service-Learning. Resource Bulletin. Washington, DC: National School-to-Work Opportunities Office, May 1996. (ED 407 518)

Silcox, H. "The Need to Consider Service Learning in Developing Future Vocational Education Programs." In Enriching the Curiculum through Service Learning, edited by C. W. Kinsley and K. McPherson. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1995. (ED 382 853)

Til, J. V. "Facing Inequality and the End of Work." Educational Leadership 54, no. 6 (March 1997): 78-81.
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