So far, the Service-Learning Foundations series has addressed selecting your partner and chosing the style of service students will complete. But how do you fully build service into the structure of your class? A service-learning syllabus reflects the integration of service into your course and communicates to students that service is an essential part of course goals, objectives, and activities. In “A Labor of Love: Constructing a Service-Learning Syllabus” (2009), Ballard and Elmore provide a helpful checklist of elements to consider when constructing a service-learning syllabus:
Service-learning as expressed goal
Develop and describe to your students the specific goals or objectives congruent with your course objectives for the service-learning component, and include them in your syllabus. Be explicit about how course content connects to work in the community. The more specific you make the connection, the better students understand their responsibilities and how to succeed in your class.
A clear description of how service-learning will be measured
Students pay close attention to grading policies and assignment details (Becker and Calhoon, 1999). Clearly describe service expectations and course requirements, including grading. Remember that students are graded on their learning from service, not the service itself.
A description of service-learning placements and/or projects
Provide a description of the agency(s) and the type of work students will do. State whether the service is direct service or project-based where students develop deliverables for the community partner.
Describe expectations for the number of hours per week and weeks of service. Set specific deadlines for students to arrange and complete service-learning assignments.
A match between needs of the community and of your course
We talked about ensuring a fit with your community partner back in our posts “What service fits your course?” and “Preparing your community partner relationship.” Based on the service students will be doing, determine how to balance that need with the learning outcomes of your course and round out assignments and content.
Assignments that link service and course content
Integrate service into your class as you would other course content. Think of the service like a text you help students read. Scaffold assignments to help students to deeper understand content and social issues through service.
A description of the reflective process
Reflection is one way we evaluate student performance in service-learning. Reflection is one of the most critical elements of service learning (Hatcher & Bringle, 1997; Roos et al., 2005; Ethridge, 2006) and is how we help students make sense of their experience of service. It can also take a variety of forms over the semester, from journals to discussions to formal presentations. More on reflection:
• Designing Service-Learning Course Syllabi
• Constructing a Service-Learning Syllabus
Have questions or ideas about service-learning? Join fellow instructors with varying levels of experience at our next coffee hour of the semester on November 9th. The hour’s theme is interdisciplinary service-learning with ample space for idea-sharing and networking.