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Service Learning

Community engagement pedagogies, often called service learning, are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. The  states:

Service Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. It is a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.

Typically, community engagement is incorporated into a course or series of courses by way of a project that has both learning and community action goals. This project is designed via collaboration between faculty and community partners, such as nongovernmental organizations or government agencies. The project asks students to apply course content to community-based activities. This gives students experiential opportunities to learn in real world contexts and develop skills of community engagement, while affording community partners opportunities to address significant needs.

Vanderbilt University's Sharon Shields has argued that "service learning is one of the most significant teaching methodologies gaining momentum on many campuses."  Indeed, when done well, teaching through community engagement benefits students, faculty, communities, and institutions of higher education. Below are some of the benefits that education researchers and practitioners have associated with community engaged teaching. 

THE BENEFITS OF SERVICE LEARNING