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  • Service-Learning Center
  • Service-Learning Center
  • Service-Learning Center
  • Service-Learning Center
  • Service-Learning Center

Academic Guidelines for Service-Learning Courses

(Note: this has been approved by the Educational Policy Committee, February 12, 2002.) 

Service learning must be distinguished from mere community service. Academic credit is not now offered, and will not be under this proposal, simply for performing a community service, no matter how valuable this service might be in itself for the student and for the community. Service-learning courses use service as a tool to advance and deepen the students’ knowledge of an academic field of study. This is why service learning courses are in fact now (and will continue to be under this proposal) part of the regular curricular offerings of the academic departments; as such, they will not be offered under the guidance of the Service Learning, but through the relevant departments. (Thus, for instance, there will be no Service Learning 101; instead there will be Sociology 311 (Community Research Seminar), or Psychology 266 (Community Psychology); and so on.) 

(a) Criteria for course approval 

To be approved, Service-Learning courses must go through the same process as any other course, that is, they must be approved by the relevant academic dean (acting on behalf of the Educational Policy Committee). The deans will authorize a Service-Learning course only if the course proposal includes sufficient formal academic content in addition to the practical work done in the field. In light of this requirement, the deans will expect a substantial research paper or other appropriate project to be required in Service-Learning courses. Such papers and projects should connect practical work done in the field with theoretical and/or methodological issues raised by this work. Moreover, service learning courses must require the students to engage the relevant academic literature in the field. Lastly, the deans will expect that there will be regular meetings with faculty in charge of the course to supervise the academic as well as the practical side of the course. The number, hours, and purpose of such meetings must be spelled out in the course proposal.

(b) Evaluation of student performance 

Student performance in the service learning courses will be evaluated entirely by the faculty member(s) teaching the course. Students will be graded on their performance in meeting the academic demands of the course, the determination of which will be done employing the standard academic criteria for typical academic courses. That is, the evaluation will be made of the learning in the course, not merely the service. (Of course, because the service aspect of the course is an important ingredient in the learning process of service learning courses, faculty may consult with those involved with the service dimension of the course for their assessment of the student’s performance. But in no cases will the final evaluation be made by anyone other than the faculty in charge of the

(c) Limits on the Number of Service-Learning Courses

Service-Learning courses are regular academic courses, comparable to lecture-plus-lab courses in the Natural Sciences, and as such are different from independent study courses and from education-in-the-field courses. There is no limit to the number of Service-Learning courses a student can count toward the thirty-two required for graduation.

(d) Repeat of Service Learning Courses 

A particular Service-Learning course cannot be repeated for academic credit (unless the student failed the course, and is taking it again). Note, however, that a course that was audited can be repeated for credit.