Tips for getting started:
1. Establish learner outcome and competencies. At RCTC, courses with the MnSCU transfer competency of Ethics and Civic Responsibility would be a natural fit with service learning. Service learning also promotes critical thinking skills. Human Diversity requirements could be met through service learning. Depending on the community partner’s needs, service learning could be incorporated into most courses . The closer the match between learner outcomes and your community partners’ needs, the better the course.
2. Determine whether the course selected is appropriate in terms of achieving its objectives in a community setting. Not all courses are meant for community based service learning. Are you developing a new course or modifying an existing course? Will the changes require approval from AASC or your department? Consult with students, community partners and fellow faculty to see if the course you are considering is appropriate.
3. Define a service learning experience. See the preceding definitions or go to servicelearning.org to identify an appropriate service learning opportunity that meets your learner outcomes/competencies. Consult community partners, RCTC Service learning coordinators and library resources for ideas.
4. Select the type of placements, projects, or activities that facilitate the service an learning related goals. What organizations and agencies are potential partners in the service learning course? What are their limitations? How many students can they supervise?
5. Determine the appropriate structure and requirements for the service and learning components. As you design or revise the course, consider how much time will be spent in the classroom and how much time will be spent in the community setting. Will the activity be sustainable? Will students work independently or in groups? It is easier to sustain a project when service learning is a mandatory course requirement.
6. Determine how students will be graded. Some service learning instructors grade the project on a pass/fail basis. Others grade the service learning portion of the course on end of semester portfolios, presentations, papers or research project. Work logs, Site Supervisor and Student Evaluations may be included. Make your expectations of the students as explicit as possible. Evaluation forms are available from the RCTC Service Learning coordinators.
7. Determine how the partnership may facilitate student learning. What role will your community partner play in student learning? How involved can they be in the learning process? Some partners have presented in the classroom, some facilitate discussion on site. Most desire to know what you expect of them. How does service learning differ from volunteer work to them?
Student Site Placement forms are available from the RCTC Service Learning coordinators
8. Incorporate meaningful reflection activities. Reflection is critical to service learners making the connection between classroom content and the community service. These reflections can include dialogue, journaling, story telling, photo journals, reaction papers and application assignments. Shorter, more frequent reflections are usually more effective than one large project at the end of the semester. See attached resources for ideas on reflection assignments.
9. Determine the appropriate classroom workload for the course. Will there be less reading? More writing? Additional oral presentations? How many hours is it appropriate to ask of your students? What types of learning can the service-related work facilitate that are currently being covered in another way? Can you design current assignments based on the service learning experience? Can knowledge based class discussions incorporate experiences from the service learning site?
10. Build on past experiences. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every semester. Some of the best projects are carry-overs from previous class works. Students also appreciate that their work will be carried into the future.
11. Do not wait until the plan is 100% perfect. This is definitely a learning by doing process. You need to be flexible and adjust to changing conditions. You will need to relinquish some control over the course in order to gain some insight into where improvements can be made for the following semester.
Last Updated: October 3, 2014