1 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: A RESOURCE COLLECTION FOR FACULTY Phone: Fax:
2 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES A RESOURCE COLLECTION FOR FACULTY The Service-Learning Best Practices Series is intended to guide and inspire S-L faculty of all levels of experience. Drawing upon nationally recognized theory and research as well as the accumulated wisdom of our Northeastern S-L faculty and program staff, these documents address the use of S-L in your courses from a practical, application-based perspective. Contents 1. Integrating Service-Learning into the Course Syllabus 2. Reflection as an Academic Practice 3. Integrating Service-Learning into Course Assignments 4. Creating a Service-Learning Grading Rubric 5. Addressing Challenges in Student Evaluation and Accountability 6. Introducing and Preparing Students for Service-Learning 7. Community Partnerships 8. Using Assessment Tools to Improve Service-Learning in Your Course 9. Taking Your Course to the Next Level: Questions for Planning 10. Using the Service-Learning Program as a Resource This series as well as complementary resources can be accessed on the Service-Learning website, Please feel free to contact the Service-Learning Program with any questions or feedback. Phone: Fax:
3 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: INTEGRATING SERVICE-LEARNING INTO THE COURSE SYLLABUS In order to be successful, students depend on the faculty member to set clear expectations and direct students through the concrete, specific ways that they should be connecting service and course content. This document describes how S-L can be explicitly written into each component of the course syllabus thus clarifying the S-L process and expectations for students and emphasizing the integration of service into your course. Examples are adapted from syllabi of Northeastern S-L faculty. For examples of full syllabi, see the faculty section of our website, For information on additional communication of service-learning expectations to students, see Service- Learning Best Practices: Introducing and Preparing Students for Service-Learning. 1. Instructor Information If you have a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant, list their contact information and office hours along with your own. 2. Course Description If possible, in the official course description used by the registrar, mention service-learning and its role in your course. This increases the likelihood that students will be aware of the use of S-L in the course before they enroll. o To alter your course description, see Even if changing the registrar s course description is not possible, you can still adapt the course description used in your syllabus to note the use of S-L in your course. The following excerpts provide examples of sentences that can be added to existing course descriptions. It further utilizes a service-learning project to help in the application of both theoretical understandings as well as the development of practical skills. i Students will engage in service-learning, which will involve hands-on service in the field of child intervention that will link the coursework on research and theory to human services practice.ii You may also think about including a definition of service-learning on your syllabus since many students have either never heard of it or associate it with secondary school service-learning, which uses a very different model. S-L at Northeastern is: a form of experiential learning involving partnerships between academic courses and community-based organizations. Students will engage in hands-on service roles and/or projects, through which you will learn about and apply course concepts while intentionally addressing the needs/interests identified by our community partners.
4 3. Course Goals and Objectives By incorporating service-learning into your goals and/or objectives, you establish the importance of S-L in the course and providing a justification for incorporating service-learning into the grading process. Articulate how service-learning will advance learning in the class as well as provide a mutually beneficial partnership with the community. Benefits of service-learning may be specific to your discipline/profession but are often based on the following general concepts: o o Possible learning outcomes: ability to apply course concepts to real-world experience; experience working with clients in a professional setting; ability to work across differences of background, culture, and personality; knowledge of careers that relate to course content, based on interactions with staff at students service sites. Possible community outcomes: meeting of needs identified by the community; development of an enhanced sense of civic responsibility; understanding of the ethical aspects of the profession or field; contribution to Northeastern s long-term partnership with local communities. In the following example, the course goals incorporate both the learning outcomes and the community outcomes of an S-L project. The goals of the course are: 1.) To understand the theory and best practices of sound nonprofit program management, fundraising, and philanthropy. 2.) To build practical skills in nonprofit program management by designing and implementing a project that is responsive to the needs of the service-learning (S-L) partner organization; and 3.) To develop skills in strategic philanthropy through the management of a donor advised fund. iii Because S-L is intended to deepen academic learning, it should align with the course objectives already in use. S-L can be incorporated into course outcomes even when the phrase service-learning is not used. The following example demonstrates how you can list service as a course method, rather than mentioning service-learning as its own, separate objective. Through case studies, service experiences, readings, discussions, and other class assignments, this course is designed to help you meet the following general objectives: To understand how deviance is defined and produced. To gain a working knowledge of the key sociological theories of deviance. To apply the conceptual tools of these theories. To critically evaluate institutional responses to deviance and control. iv 4. Course Materials Service will be a key text in the course. Students should be prepared to pay for their own public transportation to and from their service placements, just as they pay for textbooks.
5 5. Instructional Methodology Students accustomed to thinking of learning as solely based on textbooks and lectures will benefit from a clear description of how service-learning functions as a teaching and learning tool. The following two examples alert students to the instructional methods associated with service-learning. Because this course integrates active learning through service-learning, participation is an essential component of this course. This does not simply mean attendance. You will be expected to contribute to class discussion through the application of course concepts to your service-learning experiences. In order to integrate a variety of perspectives and to encourage you to prepare for class, don't be surprised if I call on you even if your hand is not raised. v Reflective assignments and exercises, including class discussions, blog entries, and the final research paper, will be utilized throughout the course to help students explicitly connect their service to the course content. 6. Policies and Expectations Participation and attendance: This includes participation in service for the entire semester, as well as participation in class discussions that draw upon students service experiences. o In courses utilizing S-L, students commit to serve an average of 2-5 hours per week for the duration of the semester. These hours may include serving directly at a community organization (e.g. tutoring in an after-school program), preparing for serving (e.g. creating curriculum), or working on a service project while on campus (e.g. meeting with a project team to create marketing materials for an organization). Transportation is not included in these hours. o o Emphasize a weekly commitment to service, rather than a total number of required hours. It is important for students to attend service continually, rather than trying to earn all the hours at the beginning of the semester and then stop their service or fit all the hours into the last weeks of the semester. This commitment is crucial for a mutually beneficial partnership. Both learning benefits and community benefits of S-L will be reached only when students engage in service on a weekly basis for the duration of the semester. The following example explains the expectations for a direct service commitment: Service Commitment: You will earn 10 points for each week you fulfill your service commitment. If you miss one week, and notify your site supervisor and S-LTA ahead of time, you will lose 5 points. You may earn back those points by making up that time within two weeks if your community partner can accommodate this change. Missing a second week, and notifying your site supervisor and S-LTA ahead of time, will cost you 10 points. You may earn back 5 points by making up that time within two weeks. The third absence at your field site will cost you 20 points and CANNOT be made up. Missing more than three service days may put you at risk for a failing grade. vi
6 The following example explains the expectations for a project-based service commitment: Service-Learning Project and Presentation: This course will utilize Service-Learning (S-L), a form of experiential education which is integrated into your overall course curriculum. Students will work in groups of three (selected the second week of the semester) throughout the semester to collaborate on an S-L research project for Jumpstart, one of the nation s leading nonprofit organization in the field of early childhood education. Some homework assignments will relate directly to this project in order to help you continually build on it throughout the semester. One or two groups with the best final report and presentation (use of PowerPoint expected) will be invited to Jumpstart s national headquarters in Boston to present their findings. This project will also require you to participate in a pre- and postservice evaluation of your experience. This assignment is worth 15% of your final grade. vii Hours out of class: Northeastern University policy states that students should expect to spend approximately three hours of out of class for every hour in class. The time spent on service should be included in these hours along with reading, writing, and all other assignments. The following example clearly explains the time commitment associated with service: For any class, you should plan to spend approximately 3 hours outside of class for every hour of class time (i.e., ~9hr/wk). For this course, this will include a minimum of 2 hours of service per week plus blogging, assigned readings, reviewing/studying for tests, and researching and preparing your presentation. viii Academic honesty: Do not assume that students understand how academic honesty policies apply to servicelearning. Lying about participation in service should be treated as a form of academic dishonesty. Remind students that community partners will provide end-of-semester evaluations that include notes on student attendance and that their S-LTA will be in regular communication with community partners throughout the semester. Communication: Communication is key to the success of service-learning. If students need to miss service for legitimate reasons, they are expected to notify the community partner and the S-LTA or faculty member before the fact. Students should know that if there is a problem at the service site or any other issue with service, it is the student s responsibility to be proactive and notify the S-LTA and/or faculty member immediately so that the problem can be addressed. 7. Course Assignments and Grading Rubric For more information, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Creating a Service-Learning Grading Rubric and Service-Learning Best Practices: Addressing Challenges in Student Evaluation and Accountability. Clarify what is expected of students and how they will be evaluated. Provide a grading rubric that sets clear guidelines and demonstrates the crucial role that service will play in course learning and evaluation. Course Grading: (100 points = 100%) DUE Attendance/Participation/Discussion 10 points ongoing S-L Reflections 30 points 9/30; 10/28; and 11/29 Problem identification outlines 10 points 9/23 Agency Review 15 points 10/14 Best Practices Guide 20 points 12/6 S-L Presentation 15 points 12/6 ix
7 Remember that students are accustomed to being graded in traditional ways and will benefit from detailed explanations about the S-L grading process. As shown in the following example, it is important to spell out specific expectations and link them to grades. Class Participation 15% Your class participation is based upon your performance in the following areas: participation in class discussion, role playing and other in-class activities; bringing examples of your service-learning experiences to class; the completion of other home-learning assignments. x 8. Course Schedule Make sure to include service-learning paperwork deadlines, service start and end dates, service project deadlines (if applicable), and dates of major reflection exercises and assignments. For project-based or hybrid service, it is especially important to include check-ins and intermediate deadlines throughout the semester so that students do not fall behind on their projects. Your S-LTA can help you maintain these deadlines and check in with students. Establishing these systems ahead of time and writing them into your syllabus will allow you and your class to spend the semester focusing on the substance of service-learning, rather than getting caught up in issues of unclear deadlines. In addition, these systems will help ensure that students projects reach a level of completion and quality that makes you proud to present them to your community partners. In the following examples, course syllabi include specific service-learning activities and deadlines. Week Six Tues. 10/12 Mid-semester Exam Fri. 10/15 Return Exam, Revisit Core Course Concepts & Service-Learning Analysis Lab #1 S-L Lab Worksheet #1 Due xi Week of Sept. 13 th S-L Community Partner Selection Form due Monday Overview of cell & DNA continued Synthetic biology Scientific integrity and bioethics S-L placements made; orientations/trainings set up Week of Sept. 20 th Ethics continued Diversity and evolution Debates: viruses and prokaryotes Preliminary research topics S-L placements finalized QUIZ 1 WEDNESDAY SPECIAL CLASS MEETING THURSDAY (9/23) S-L orientation meetings (check Blackboard for time and place for your group) xii
8 i Adapted from Elise Dallimore, syllabus for COMM 4534: Organizational Communication Training and Development, Fall ii Adapted from Emily Mann, syllabus for HUSV 3520: Child Intervention and Treatment, Fall iii Adapted from Rebecca Riccio, syllabus for HUSV 3570: Strategic Philanthropy & Nonprofit Management, Spring iv Adapted from Vicki Schow, syllabus for SOC U285: Deviant Behavior & Social Control, Spring v Adapted from Vicki Schow, syllabus for SOC U285: Deviant Behavior & Social Control, Spring 2009, and Elise Dallimore, syllabus for COMM 4534: Organizational Communication Training and Development, Fall vi Adapted from Polly Attwood, syllabus for EDUC 4570: Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity, Fall vii Adapted from Vicki Schow, SOC U320: Statistical Analysis in Sociology, Fall viii Adapted from Gail Begley, syllabus for BIOL 2299: Inquiries in Cell & Molecular Biology, Fall ix Adapted from Emily Mann, syllabus for HUSV 3520: Child Intervention and Treatment, Fall x Adapted from Elise Dallimore, syllabus for COMM 3230: Interpersonal Communication, Fall xi Adapted from Elise Dallimore, syllabus for COMM 3230: Interpersonal Communication, Fall xii Adapted from Gail Begley, syllabus for BIOL 2299: Inquiries in Cell & Molecular Biology, Fall Phone: Fax:
9 Why Is Reflection So Important? SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: REFLECTION AS ACADEMIC PRACTICE We do not learn from experience We learn from reflecting on experience (John Dewey). It is through reflection that you and your students will reap the benefits of all your hard work. Done right, reflection leads students to the breakthrough aha! moments that bring learning to the next level. Research suggests that without structured opportunities to critically reflect, students may fail to connect service and classroom learning, receive none of the benefits of S-L, and leave with a negative opinion of their instructor. In contrast, when reflection is well integrated into the course, students report higher motivation and judge their class to be higher quality (superior to courses without S-L) and more powerful intellectually. 1 4 Key Principles of Reflection Continuous Reflection should be ongoing, occurring before, during and after students' experiences. Connected Reflection provides opportunity to integrate learning from experience with academic content or personal development, including ways in which the experiences illustrate concepts, theories, and trends. Challenging Reflection both supports and challenges students to engage issues by thinking critically, pushing them to pose stimulating questions and to develop alternative explanations for their initial perceptions and observations of their experiences. Contextualized Reflection relies on the analysis of the context of the issues being discussed and the setting. It occurs in various forms and settings. (Eyler, Giles, & Schmiede, 1996) The deepest learning occurs when you create a reflective classroom, rather than just adding on a reflective component that does not affect the other components of your class. Forms of Reflection Reflection is commonly misunderstood to be suitable only as an informal activity, separate from major assignments and either ungraded or weighted very little in students grades. In fact, critical reflective thinking can, and should as much as possible, be incorporated into every aspect of your course, including existing assignments. See Service-Learning Best Practices: Integrating Service-Learning Into Course Assignments. Forms of reflection include (but are not limited to): Writing: Formal analysis or research papers that ask students to draw upon service experiences along with readings and lectures; case studies; journals/blogs/blackboard forums; creative writing; self-evaluations. Telling: Oral presentations; formal or informal class or small group discussions; debates; teaching a class. Responding: Reading/observing/listening to materials that are directly or indirectly related to service and drawing upon service experiences in response. Materials may include: course lectures, case studies, journal or news articles, documents by or about community partners or community members, or various art forms. Doing: Completing culminating projects, publicizing/advocating for relevant causes, designing and implementing a final project that contributes something beneficial to the community partner. Continuous Reflection and the Experiential Learning Cycle Reflection is a key driver of the experiential learning cycle. This cycle, and thus also reflection, should take place: 1 Janet Eyler and Dwight Giles, Jr., The Importance of Program Quality in Service-Learning, in A. S. Waterman (Ed.), Service-Learning: applications from the research (Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997)
10 As a single turn of the circle that progresses gradually throughout the course of the semester, and: As a constantly cycling process that occurs on a weekly basis, as students continue to serve, learn, bring their new learning back into their service, and begin the cycle once again. (decision/action) (description) (interpretation) (adapted from Mathos, Tullier, and Nevalga, 2010) The various forms of reflection in your course should provide opportunities throughout the semester for students to think at all 3 of the questions, What? So What? Now What? It is crucial that students have structured opportunities to address all 3 stages of thought. Only when students reach the Now What? stage can they truly convert their experiences into learning and growth, and they will not necessarily reach this stage without your guidance. Below are examples of questions that can spark students thinking at each stage of the learning cycle: WHAT? (description) What happened, who was involved, and what were my own initial reactions and perspectives? SO WHAT? (interpretation) What impact did the service have on the community and on me? What lessons did I learn/ what perspectives did I gain? What larger themes, root causes, and social/political context help me understand the community issues I am observing/helping to address during service? How do service experiences and course material connect to and inform each other? What gaps in my understanding of course material or in my skills have I discovered while serving? NOW WHAT? (decision/action) What s my action plan/next steps? What can I do differently to improve my service? How will my experience inform my future choices? How can I apply my new learning/perspective to other situations? How can I address the gaps in my understanding and skills I have discovered while serving? What can other people/institutions do differently to address these community issues? Connection back to top of cycle Phone: Fax:
11 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: INTEGRATING SERVICE-LEARNING INTO COURSE ASSIGNMENTS Integrating S-L into your existing course assignments from research papers and exams to final presentations is an ideal way to deepen students grasp of course content. General Guidelines for S-L Course Assignments To maximize learning, the connection between service and academics should be a two-way street. Assignments may either ask students to draw upon their service experiences when discussing or analyzing course concepts or to use course concepts to interpret service experiences. Connecting service and academic course content o Rather than assigning students separate service-learning assignments and regular assignments, think about ways that you can give students the opportunity to draw upon their service experiences throughout your course assignments. While BlackBoard posting or blogging about service is a powerful way to get students started, the integration of service and learning should not end there. (This is not to say that students must discuss service in all their assignments.) o Assignments should engage students at each level of the What? So What? Now What? cycle. See Service-Learning Best Practices: Reflection as an Academic Practice. Using examples from service experiences o Assignments that incorporate S-L should require students to use examples of situations that they experienced or observed during service. Students who have been consistently discussing, blogging, or otherwise reflecting on their service experiences will find it much easier to think of relevant examples once the time comes to write an essay, give a presentation, or complete an exam. o If no relevant anecdotes from service come to mind, students may use situations discussed by classmates or propose hypothetical situations that might occur at their service site or while working on service projects. However, make sure to clarify with students when they can use hypothetical situations and when they are bound by academic honesty to report truthfully about their service. Ways to integrate S-L into course assignments include: Adding one or more questions (such as the questions listed on the next page) to existing essay prompts, written exams, or oral presentation assignments. Requiring or giving students the option of using their service experiences/observations or information from their community partners as a source in a research paper, just as external research sources would be used. Asking students to use the terminology or language of the field or discipline when discussing their service. This technique will help students continuously connect service and academic content. Students in service-learning placements are often able to make critical connections between the course readings, class discussions, politics, and the implementation of social and educational policies and programs.with the start of service, the classroom discussions shift, from a singular focus on readings and course material, to a layered and more critical assessment of best practices. Students quickly can identify the role of their community partner and can compare and contrast their experiences in the field with the texts and content of the course. Service-Learning Faculty Member Emily Mann, Fall 2010
12 Below are some of the types of questions you can use in assignments in order to spark students critical reflective thinking. How do service experiences and course content Corroborate? o Provide an example from your service that seems to illustrate a concept discussed in the course. Explain how your example aligns with the concept. How does your knowledge of the concept help you understand what you experienced during your service? What have you learned about the benefits of applying theory to real-world situations? Challenge each other? o Provide an example from your service that complicates or seems to provide evidence against a concept or theory discussed in the course. Explain how your real-world example challenges or conflicts with the concept. How would a proponent of the concept respond to your challenge? What have you learned about the difficulties of applying theory to real-world situations? Compare? o View an aspect or anecdote of your service experience through the lens of two or more theories or perspectives discussed in the course. How do these various lenses allow you to interpret your experience in different ways? Have your service experiences changed your opinion about which theory or perspective you agree with? Form the basis of Critiques? o How could course concepts be applied to improve your personal performance in your service role/project? What have you learned about the areas in which you could use improvement? o How could course concepts be applied to improve the function of your community partner organization? In light of course concepts, what should stay the same, change, or be added to the organization s programming or policies to help the organization better accomplish its mission? Connect to Careers? o What has your service taught you about the rewards or challenges of a career in this discipline? o In light of your service, how can/should professionals in this discipline contribute to the community? For practical examples and inspiration, check out the collections of model syllabi, assignments and activities shared by your fellow Northeastern S-L faculty members in the faculty section of our website, Applying classroom learning in the real world is not a trivial task and it doesn t accomplish itself. There is a gap between knowing and doing. For me, S-L provided that missing link. Student Service-Learner, Spring Phone: Fax:
13 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: CREATING A SERVICE-LEARNING GRADING RUBRIC A well-structured grading rubric can clarify what is expected of students and how they will be held accountable, dispel any confusion or anxiety about service-learning, and reinforce the role of service-learning in your course. With preestablished expectations, you and your students can spend the semester focusing on the substance of service-learning, rather than addressing issues of miscommunication and accountability. For more information on troubleshooting in the grading process, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Addressing Challenges in Student Evaluation and Accountability. Principles of Evaluating Student Service-Learners As in any course, evaluation focuses on students ability to meet course learning objectives. Students should be graded for their learning, not their service. 1 Ideally, students grades shouldn t be separated into just service grades and just learning grades. When service is fully integrated into the course so that students learning is optimized it should be difficult to parse out the grade value associated with service from the value associated with academic course content. The full integration of service-learning does not mean that your grading rubric should be vague. In fact, because service-learning can depart from what students are accustomed to, it is even more important than ever to supply clear grading criteria for the assignments that ask students to draw upon observations and learnings from their service experiences. o In addition, the grading rubric should be structured to hold students accountable for their service responsibilities, since service is the vehicle through which learning takes place. o For Project-Based S-L: You may or may not choose to grade students for group meetings, community partner communication, and other aspects of service along the way. Regardless, you can grade students on their final, tangible project deliverables, which demonstrate what students have learned. Evaluation should reflect students ability to learn through service, thus deepening their grasp of the course content. Ask yourself: How will students in your course be required to demonstrate, and earn credit for, connections between service and course content? Set standards in advance. The more structured, specific, and concrete the grading rubric, the better. o Provide examples of past student work if possible, so that students understand what merits a high grade. This course allowed me to apply the theories, the knowledge and the skills to real world situations. I began to understand the value of this type of work. My Service-Learning experience has not only helped me find my passion for social work, it opened doors to many opportunities. S-L Student, Spring Jeffrey Howard, Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning: Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, University of Michigan: OCSL Press, Summer 2001.
14 Components of the Grade Major Assignments: Whenever possible, papers, presentations, and test questions should provide students the opportunity to connect their service experiences to the course content. This requirement should be written into the criteria for the assignment. Supporting Reflection Assignments: Blogs, reflection papers, and class discussions, assigned throughout the semester, should use guided questions to compel students to think critically about their service and its connections to course content. [see best practices for blogging; also best practices for assignments] Additional Feedback: Since faculty members cannot monitor all aspects of the S-L experience, Community Partner Evaluations and S-LTA feedback provide valuable insight into students performance. Student selfevaluation or peer evaluation may also be used. Feedback may address the following: o Is the student serving consistently and exhibiting professional behavior? o Is the student taking initiative and seizing upon opportunities to learn through the service? o If the student has not fulfilled service requirements, could the student have done more to make the best of the situation or was it truly beyond the student s control? Compliance with the Service-Learning Process: Points can be awarded or taken away for logistical requirements, such as: handing in forms on time; communicating with the faculty, S-LTA, and community partner; and completing the S-L Program Evaluation at the end of the semester. These requirements should be treated the same as all other assignments. This accountability greatly smoothes the S-L process. o To help with accountability and aid us with tracking the S-L program can provide timesheets that are filled in by students, signed by site supervisors, and submitted to the faculty member and/or S-LTA. For examples of grading rubrics, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Integrating Service-Learning into the Course Syllabus as well as the collection of sample syllabi on our website, In order to support NEU students in deeper learning, I require them to post to a S-L Discussion board using a What, So What and Now What structure The more the students practice reflecting in this format, the more able they are to separate what they are observing from how they are reacting to and making sense of what they see. The discussion board provides a place for students to slow down and notice their reactions, judgments, and interpretations, not to make them right or wrong, but to see them and be able to reflect upon them Over the weeks posting, I find that more and more students are asking each other questions that invite a new perspective or extend a classmate s thinking rather than simply rushing to give advice. Instead of just dropping in the name of a reading, students start to use them to question their own and each other s understandings of interactions and dilemmas at their sites. It is exciting to see the students engage their own and each other s questions as they learn to reflect on their S-L experiences and discover the power of being a teacher who is also a learner. S-L Faculty Member Polly Atwood, Fall Phone: Fax:
15 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: ADDRESSING CHALLENGES IN STUDENT EVALUATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY For a more comprehensive look at grading for courses utilizing S-L, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Creating a Service-Learning Grading Rubric. What if a student s service placement does not provide the anticipated opportunity to learn? The S-L program works to ensure the quality and relevance of all of our service placements. However, occasionally placements do not work out as expected. o State in writing on the syllabus and also remind students in person of the importance of communicating with you and your S-LTA. You can evaluate students fairly only if you know the circumstances with which they are working. Moreover, the S-LTA and S-L staff may be able to work with the community partner to improve the situation, especially early on in the semester, or even assign the student to a new community partner if necessary. For more information on addressing challenges in students service placements, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Community Partnerships. o Encourage students to take initiative and think creatively about their learning. Sometimes, service placements are largely what students make of them. For One student in a Communications class complained that she was not observing some of the communication types mentioned in class during her service. The professor explained to her that by detailing the ways that these communication types were not utilized, the student had demonstrated thorough understanding of the course content. The absence of an expected outcome can offer a learning opportunity with just as much value as the expected outcome. What if students do not fulfill their service obligations? Students should be held accountable for full participation in service, just as they are accountable for coming to class prepared and completing other assignments on time. Students who do not have a valid excuse should be penalized for not serving because service, like a textbook or paper assignment, is a vehicle for learning. o When S-L is fully integrated into a course, students will not be able to earn a high grade in the course without participating in service. The syllabus and grading rubric should make clear that students can lose points for failing to fulfill service responsibilities, such as: turning in requisite forms on time; attending community partner orientation; and fully preparing for and participating in service. Just showing up to the service site does not fulfill the student s responsibilities, just as simply showing up to class will not result in a high participation grade. o One option for holding students accountable is to include full participation in service in students class participation grade or as a separate participation grade. Students may be penalized for insufficient participation in service just as they might lose points for insufficient participation in class discussion. o In addition, students will suffer indirectly from not serving, since they will not reach the optimum level of learning without service. If assignments are well-structured calling upon students to explicitly relate service experiences to the course content then students who do not serve will not excel in the course. o If a student does not serve due to illness or special circumstances, the standard University policies apply. The student is responsible for communicating promptly with the faculty member, providing appropriate documentation for absences, and having the option to withdraw from the course.
16 What if service-learning is optional in my course? We strongly encourage making S-L a requirement in your course. If this is not possible, however, there are still ways to maximize the integration of S-L in your course: o Clearly outline the benefits and requirements of the S-L option in your syllabus and review them in the first day or week of class. The syllabus may include separate S-L Track and a Non-S-L Track grading rubric. Ensure that students understand the differences between these tracks, while reminding them that S-L is a method to enhance course learning, not just additional work. o Advise students that once they have committed to service, community partners are counting on them; they cannot simply back out and go back to the Non-S-L Track. o Offer alternate paper topics and test questions that allow service-learning students to draw on their service in order to demonstrate their grasp of course concepts. For instance, service experiences could serve as sources for papers, rather than library research sources. o Encourage service-learning students to talk about their service during class discussions, so that the entire class can learn from service-learners experiences. I think the service-learning option is a great and welcome addition... I came into the class as one of those students who was less than enthused at the thought of being required to take a writing class this semester, but am now convinced that the service-learning option has breathed new life into my appreciation for the course and its goals. Student Service-Learner, Spring Phone: Fax:
17 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: INTRODUCING AND PREPARING STUDENTS FOR SERVICE-LEARNING Introducing Service-Learning in Your Course Before the first day of class: With prior notice of the use of S-L in your course, students can plan their schedules accordingly, prepare relevant questions for faculty/s-ltas, and begin class with a positive attitude. o Service-Learning will be best understood and most legitimized to students if it is explicitly written into your syllabus and, if possible, into the official course description used by the registrar. See Service-Learning Best Practices: Integrating Service-Learning into the Course Syllabus. o all registered students through Blackboard to announce the use of S-L in the course. Even if S-L is mentioned in the course description/syllabus, students may not notice or understand what S-L will entail. On the first day of class: Alert students to the function and general structure that S-L will have in your course and explain any S-L requirements. S-L should be addressed by the faculty member during the presentation of the course syllabus, even if an S-LTA will be presenting Welcome to Service-Learning in class as well. By introducing S-L yourself, you will reinforce your S-LTA s message so that students see S-L as an integral part of the class, rather than associating it only with the S-LTA. Welcome to Service-Learning : Schedule at least 30 minutes for your S-LTA to present Welcome to Service- Learning. S-LTAs are trained to give this presentation and respond to student questions and concerns that follow. If you are not using an S-LTA, you may request that an S-L staff member present. o Discuss with your S-LTA the Next Steps that will be explained in the presentation. Providing students with concrete, specific instructions for getting started with S-L will help ease any student anxieties. o Be aware that during the S-LTA s presentation, students often bring up broader questions about the course that may be better addressed by you than by your S-LTA. Preparing Students to Serve: Pre-flection Workshops and Tours Pre-flection prepares students for their upcoming service by addressing community context, best practices of service, and expectations and assumptions. Through Pre-flection, you and your S-LTA can equip students to serve effectively and with sensitivity to our communities and to learn as much as possible from their service. o Logistics: Pre-flection may include classroom presentation, community walking tours, and interactive activities. Pre-flection is ideally facilitated during class time within the first four weeks of class (before or soon after students begin serving) and may run from 40 to 90 minutes. o Planning: S-LTAs are trained to tailor the Pre-flection curriculum to suit the specific nature and needs of your course. You and your S-LTA can collaborate to identify the best content elements and format for Pre-flection in your course. Pre-flection may be determined by your course level, discipline, types of service, and communities/populations served with in your course. The S-L Program maintains a bank of Pre-flection material to draw from, but you and your S-LTA should not feel limited by the bank. You can use the Pre-Service Assessment to gauge your students preparedness and adjust Pre-flection accordingly. See Service-Learning Best Practices: Using Assessment Tools to Improve S-L in Your Course. o Facilitation: S-LTAs are trained to facilitate Pre-flection. As the faculty member, your role may be: Co-planning and co-facilitating Pre-flection in partnership with your S-LTA. Allowing your S-LTA to take the lead on Pre-flection. You can support your S-LTA by offering feedback during planning; attending and participating in Pre-flection yourself; and afterward asking students to discuss (in class or in writing) what they have learned from Pre-flection and how it relates to and prepares them for their service. Phone: Fax:
18 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS Understanding and building strong relations with the Community Partners (CPs) that host, supervise, and benefit from student service-learners is a key step to making S-L in your course as rewarding and impactful as possible. Northeastern S-L students allowed us to bring Cultural Kitchen to an additional school, a new site that I had not planned on working with. Their dedication to the program allowed us to expand our relationship with Brookline public schools and STEPS to success. As a result we are expanding our curriculum to additional Brookline schools this winter. I could not lead each session by myself, without their time the program could not have functioned. Fall 2010 Community Partner Understanding Community Partners Culture and working styles both organizational and personal can differ greatly between the university and community organizations. CP staff, especially those that work directly with youth or other clients, may keep very different hours from the average university schedule, take longer than we might expect to answer s and phone calls, and operate according to policies and philosophies that may be unfamiliar to outsiders. CP staff members take on S-L supervisory roles and other partnership demands on top of their already full workloads, almost always without extra compensation. Like S-L faculty members, CP staff members may be committed to S-L but face challenges in balancing it with other responsibilities. Faculty should use the S-L Program staff as a resource. Our knowledge of partnership histories and CP organizational cultures may give you valuable insight into your partners. Communicating with Community Partners Ensure that expectations for all parties including CPs, faculty members, S-LTAs, and students are clear on all sides from the start of the semester. o CPs have committed to supporting students in particular service roles through our RFP Process. Any changes you make to S-L in your course may affect a CP s ability or willingness to support your students. o If student service roles/projects change after the initial partnership is set which is not ideal but sometimes unavoidable make sure that all parties agree to the changes, so that students can still fulfill learning goals and CPs can still have identified needs met by students service. Maintain open, two-way communication between you (and/or S-LTA) and your CPs. Establish the habit of continuously checking in, rather than waiting for urgent problems to emerge before getting in touch. Your S-LTA can help alleviate the time burden on you by managing day-to-day communication with CPs. Make sure that you and your S-LTA clearly define your respective roles to avoid any misunderstandings. Take advantage of valuable opportunities to communicate face-to-face with your partners. o The S-L Partnership Orientation, hosted at Northeastern the week before classes start, efficiently connects faculty and S-LTAs with their CPs to discuss partnership details for the upcoming semester. o The Showcasing & Recognizing Service-Learning Partnerships event, usually held on Northeastern Reading Day at the end of the semester, gathers all parties to celebrate the semester s accomplishments. Consider inviting CPs to class for example, to introduce themselves and their service roles/projects to students at the start of the semester when students are choosing their service role/project preferences; to present best practices of their field; to co-facilitate S-L reflections; to meet with students doing project-based service; or to observe or evaluate students final presentations. Given the right match and enough time on their part, some CPs may be interested to take on more of a co-educator role with you. o Because CPs time is limited and valuable, consider how they can benefit or be compensated for this extra commitment.
19 Addressing Partnership Challenges Properly preparing students for their service can prevent many common partnership challenges. Discuss expectations and appropriate conduct with your students and encourage them to treat service as professionally as a job or co-op. See Service-Learning Best Practices: Introducing and Preparing Students for Service-Learning. The service placement process may challenge you and your students to stay flexible. A CP may count on hosting a certain number of students from your course or, conversely, may be able to host only a limited number of students. Stay open to giving students their second or third choice placements if CP needs and limitations require it; these placements may end up being the most rewarding and eye-opening for students. If your students have project-based service placements, make sure that you and/or your S-LTA stay updated on what students are doing for the CPs. Students may be so eager to help a CP meet its needs that they might agree to spend their time on projects that do not fulfill learning goals. Make sure that projects advance both CPs objectives and students learning. Take student complaints seriously but with a grain of salt. Students may misinterpret events at their service placements or feel disoriented when service realities clash with expectations. Consult with your S-LTA or the S-L Program staff, who can help you get the CP s side of the story and, if necessary, decide the best way to approach the CP about any remaining issues. If something is preventing the partnership from being mutually beneficial, the first instinct might be to pull the student out of that service placement and find another place for the student to serve. However, whenever possible, we will choose to work through challenges rather than pulling the student. Challenges can often be solved by sitting down with the CP to restate or clarify goals and expectations and to think creatively together about how both service and learning goals can be fulfilled. In contrast, if a student is pulled from the placement, both the student and the CP will miss out on the benefits of the partnership, and the student will lose the opportunity to learn from working through a challenging situation. In addition, starting the student at a new placement can take weeks. The student will lose crucial weeks of service and will not have service experiences to discuss in class. Although on rare occasions, removing a student from the service placement may be the best option, choosing instead to work through challenges with a CP is almost always worthwhile. For more information on addressing challenges in students service placements, see Service-Learning Best Practices: Addressing Challenges in Student Evaluation and Accountability. Northeastern University service-learning (S-L) students visited and engaged Discover Roxbury s staff, community partners, and patrons through site visits and interviews. Their hands-on approach and probing questions pushed us to think about methods of evaluation and improvement which we might not have otherwise considered. We enjoyed high quality, professional work and a set of deliverables which we can integrate into the structure of the organization.as a community partner, Discover Roxbury has become a more nimble and engaging organization. Community Partner, Spring Phone: Fax:
20 SERVICE-LEARNING BEST PRACTICES: USING ASSESSMENT TOOLS TO IMPROVE SERVICE-LEARNING IN YOUR COURSE All S-L faculty members, S-LTAs, community partners, and students are asked to respond to custom-designed, webbased Service-Learning questionnaires (accessed through SurveyMonkey links that the S-L Program provides). Why Assess? S-L evaluations have two primary objectives: 1. To allow us to track important data (including student-reported learning outcomes) for the University, for internal use in our program, and for potential funding and/or research opportunities. 2. To allow you, as S-L faculty, to assess the effectiveness of various aspects of S-L in your course, from community partnerships to the integration of service and learning in the course. Although it can be easy for busy faculty to miss this important step, sitting down with evaluation responses to examine them closely and really think through their significance is essential for faculty who expect to see improvements in S-L in their courses. Simply gathering the data is not enough! Through assessment, you can: track/document student-reported learning outcomes and note changes over multiple semesters; use feedback to help you improve your teaching; and better meet both student and community needs in future courses that you teach. The assessment process is also an opportunity for you to model the kind of reflective behavior that you encourage in your students. Service-Learning Assessment Tools for Faculty Assessment Tool Collection of Data Uses of Data Pre-Service Assessment Faculty opt for their students to participate in weeks 1-2 of the semester Assess students attitudes toward/ preparation for S-L and plan semester accordingly; compare to Final Evaluation Final Student Evaluation Final Community Partner Evaluation All S-L students participate at end of semester (distinct and separate from TRACE evaluations). *Includes elements that align with the experiential education evaluation systems coming through the Office of the Provost All S-L Community Partners participate at end of semester Assess student learning/ attitude changes through the semester; collect feedback for future course improvement Evaluate individual students performance in their service roles/projects; judge extent to which service met community-identified needs; collect feedback for partnership improvement Faculty assess their own use of S-L Various methods; see below Interpret student and CP evaluation responses; plan for next semester The S-L Staff have seen patterns in evaluation data over the years. We can help you interpret feedback (whether it s positive or negative) and use it constructively to take your course to the next level. Your S-LTAs can also provide further perspective on the use of S-L in your course and on the meaning of evaluation responses. S-LTAs involvement in the day-to-day details of S-L and their understanding of students point of view can give them unique insight. In addition, although some parts of the S-LTA evaluation are confidential, we can share other parts with you as another way to hear S-LTAs perspectives.