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What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is a multifaceted concept that embraces both curricular and co-curricular approaches to service and educational opportunities. The hyphen between the words “service” and “learning” strongly suggests a balance between learning goals and service outcomes that can be achieved only through an integration of each.

The Council for the Advancement of Standard (CAS) in Higher Education defines service-learning as “a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.” While there are various definitions and interpretations of service-learning, this definition most accurately represents the concept in action at St. Norbert College. 

Since St. Norbert College values a holistic approach to student development that encompasses both academic and co-curricular learning objectives, the Sturzl Center for Community Service and Learning has consciously chosen to apply service-learning principles to both the curricular and co-curricular realms; therefore instituting a differentiation between academic service-learning (ASL) and co-curricular service-learning (CoSL). Academic service-learning at St. Norbert College is defined as “a pedagogical method that enhances the curriculum by integrating academic and civic learning with authentic community service.”  

Academic Service-Learning and Co-Curricular Service-Learning 
"Academic service-learning is not the same as student community service or co-curricular service-learning. While sharing the word “service,” these models of student involvement in the community are distinguished by their learning agenda. Student community service, illustrated by a student organization adopting a local elementary school, rarely involves a learning agenda. In contrast, both forms of service-learning – academic and co-curricular – make intentional efforts to engage students in planned and purposeful learning related to the service experiences. 

Co-curricular service-learning, illustrated by many alternative spring break programs, is concerned with raising students’ consciousness and familiarity with issues related to various communities. academic service-learning, illustrated by student community service integrated into an academic course, utilizes the service experience as a course “text” for both academic learning and civic learning."

Source: Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, pg. 10 
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