Elements of Service Learning

At Berea College, we believe that three elements must be present for an activity to be considered a service-learning partnership. These three elements are:

  1. A collaborative partnership between the college and the community. We believe that “collaborative” is a key word. The service-learning project should be relevant and beneficial to both the college and the community and should result from shared dialogue and negotiation.
  2. Applying academic knowledge and critical thinking skills. Students take what they are learning through course readings, classroom discussions and faculty lectures, and they apply these learnings to a community setting. The application of academic knowledge allows theories to come to life and provides students with opportunities to find relevance and meaning in their course content.
  3. Reflection and assessment leading to greater understanding of course content and civic engagement. Reflection refers to any activity that ties the first two elements together. For example, classroom discussions, journals, synthesis papers and end-of-semester presentations can all serve as forms of reflection. Reflection activities offer students the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of course content, as well as to consider how their course content and service-learning activity are related to their community, social issues and their career goals.