In service-learning, students not only learn to serve but also serve to learn.   Service-learning courses respond to real community needs and incorporate community engagement into rigorous academic coursework. Service-learning is a deliberate, adaptable, interdisciplinary pedagogy.  As Associate Dean Ken Brown has noted, service-learning courses require the three “Rs”:  Reciprocity, Reflection, and academic Rigor. 

A number of excellent guides exist for designing and facilitating a service-learning course, including these "Ten Principles of Good Practice in Service Learning Curriculum and Pedagogy" from the Center for Teaching.  Please contact the Center for Teaching for recommendations specific to your course.  The following represent some broad suggestions gleaned from the Xicotepec course: 

  • The faculty of International Perspectives: Xicotepec introduce the course to students with a basic definition of service-learning that defines the community partner as a teammate who is providing a benefit to the students.  The pharmacy students’ deworming project, for example, provided students with valuable experience in medication management, including drug choice, dosage and administration, procurement, transportation, and medication administration documentation. 
  • The goal of service-learning is not “voluntourism.”  Professors Seaba and Catney structure the course with the goal of helping students understand that they are cultivating a real partnership with – and often at the behest of – community partners. Empathetic learning and relationship building are crucial to the success of the course. 
  • The long-term success of the Xicotepec course demonstrates that it is crucial to spend ample time building a relationship with the community partner in order to ensure that communities or projects are not simply abandoned after the students complete the course.  
  • The Xicotepec course has worked well for all partners because the student projects were developed in collaboration with the community.  The pharmacy students’ project, for example, was chosen in part because deworming was identified by the Xicotepec community as something that was needed, especially for preschool and elementary school children. 
  • Professors Seaba and Catney have found that timid students with limited travel experience can benefit from being assigned to leadership roles during the service-learning project.  Students who have had substantial leadership and travel experience also learn a great deal from participating as a cooperative team member and sharing the leadership role. 
  • During and after the week in Mexico, the students reflect on their experiences, relating their coursework to their service-learning experience and articulating the significance of their learning.  This allows students to move beyond simply recalling their service-learning experiences and whether or not they liked it to understanding how service-learning was integral to their personal and professional growth.