Connecting Service and Learning

Service Learning Steps to Success for Community Partners

Service learning is a teaching method that allows students to relate or apply what they learn in class to community-defined, real-life issues.

At KU students enrolled in a course may participate in community service either through direct service, by working with agency staff, or by advocating for a specific cause.

1. Find ways service learning can meet your organization’s mission and goals.
  • Explore specific ways students could contribute, either as individual volunteers or through a class project.
  • What never gets off your "to-do" list?
  • What would your organization like to do that you can’t now?
2. Consider the kinds of service learning in which you'd like to participate.
  • Getting started is often the hardest part. Begin with simple projects, then build.
  • Will students be working directly with clients or will they be working with agency staff to advance the organizational mission?
  • Tight collaborations need more planning up front; looser collaborations require checking in periodically for optimal results.
  • Decide whether you want to work closely with a few classes, or more loosely with many classes.
3. Plan collaboratively.
  • Get to know your faculty partners.
  • Discuss goals and challenges early.
  • Address service goals for your organization and learning goals for the students.
  • Request service commitments of 20+ hours per student. You will improve your return on investment, and students will experience more.
4. Create well-defined roles.
  • Work with faculty to define the student assignment, supervision, and reporting.
  • Students will be more motivated if they have choices regarding their involvement and the importance of their contribution is clear.
  • Clarify responsibilities and measures of accountability.
  • Make sure students receive the proper training and orientation.
5. Monitor progress, evaluate, & adapt.
  • Determine how your organization will evaluate and/or document student service.
  • Keep evaluation and documentation measures simple.
  • Ask students and the people served what is working and what is not.
  • Discuss with your faculty partner what improvements could be made for a better collaboration.
  • If a student calls at the last minute wanting volunteer hours, politely say “no,” and suggest he or she call ahead next time.

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