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Syllabus Design

Service Learning Course

Syllabus Checklist

Creating Value in the Experience

According to Julie A. Hatcher in “Designing Effective Reflection: What Matters to Service-Learning?” research indicates that students have a positive outcome on values and attitudes from service learning courses when the following are present:
  • Contributed at least 15-20 hours of service.
  • Had frequent contact with the beneficiaries of their service.
  • Participated in weekly in-class reflection.
  • Completed on-going and summative written reflection activities.
  • Discussed their service experience with the instructor and community site supervisor.

What to Include in the Syllabus

According to Kerrissa Heffernan, Director of Faculty Engagement, Royce Fellowship at Brown University, the following main components should be included in a service learning syllabus:

  • Description of service learning experience.
  • Learning goals and objectives of the service learning and anticipated outcomes of the experience for both students and the community partners.
  • Opportunities for structured reflection on the connections between academic content and service provided.
  • Integration of academic content and community service both in teaching and assessment.

As well, the following characteristics can make for a strong service learning syllabus:

  • Course description which includes description of community-based learning approach for the course.
  • Learning objectives for students which address the community-based service experience.
  • General service objectives for community partners.
  • Projects/assignments related to the community service experience.
  • Readings/discussions/presentations (i.e. course content) related to the community service experience, illustrating a deliberate connection between the academic content and the community service experience.
  • Opportunities for structured reflection as evidenced in assignments, journals, discussions, and other mechanisms set out explicitly in the syllabus.
  • Assessment of community experience as an explicit component of determining grading for the course.
  • Evidence of integration of the community-based experience with other methods of instruction and learning.

Service Learning Projects

When attempting to design a project for a service learning course, it is important to keep in mind the organization’s needs are. In order to get started, some possible projects that can be accomplished with a nonprofit organization are listed below. Keep in mind, however, there are many more options besides the list below.

  • Needs assessments.
  • Training/workshop development.
  • Strategic planning.
  • Marketing plans.
  • Mission-focused program, service, event planning and leadership.
  • Program evaluation and logic modeling.
  • Accounting and budgeting.