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Service Learning at UHD

Service Learning Goals

The goals of the service learning program at University of Houston-Downtown are to:

  • enhance student academic learning through real-world experiences,
  • increase students' sense of civic identity,
  • provide support to faculty to integrate service learning into their disciplines, and
  • support meaningful projects that positively impact communities.

Towards these goals, UHD has adopted the following student learning outcome for all service learning courses:

Students will be able to connect and extend knowledge and skills from their own academic study/field/discipline to the service learning project.

Service Learning Criteria

At UHD, all Service Learning (SL) courses must require a minimum of 10 hours of service from each student. Part of these hours could be student time spent planning the project inside or outside of the classroom.

Including a service learning component to your course is not simply an add-on. It is an integral part of student learning, retention, and meaning- making. As such, the incorporation of service should be evident in your course syllabus and students should complete the service learning project as a part of the course requirements. The service learning student learning outcome should also be reflected in the course syllabus.

In the event that a student is unable to perform the service learning requirement, and that there is no other section of that course being taught at the same time that does not have a Service Learning component, an alternative service project must be offered to that student. This does not apply if service is a part of the student's degree plan, or if the student does not make the conflict known prior to the Official Day of Record.

In the likely event that the service project being performed is in collaboration with another organization, the service learning faculty should notify CCESL of the partnership. This helps us ensure that:

  • appropriate assessment is taking place,
  • communication with that organization is streamlined through their established connection with UHD, and
  • the organization or entity can be recognized as an official Community Partner of UHD.

Faculty who have courses designated as SL must adhere to the criteria and requirements for designation as established by the sitting Community Engagement and Service Learning Committee.

Faculty will be given credit for teaching SL designated courses in their annual evaluations.

Students who take SL designated courses will receive SL course credit on their final transcripts.

For more information about Service Learning, please reference the Service Learning Toolkit.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse).

Service learning is a process of involving students in community service activities combined with facilitated means for applying the experience to their academic and personal development. It is a form of experiential education aimed at enhancing and enriching student learning in course material. When compared to other forms of experiential learning like internships and cooperative education, it is similar in that it is studentcentered, hands-on and directly applicable to the curriculum.

The critical difference and distinguishing characteristic of service learning is its reciprocal and balanced emphasis on both students learning and addressing real needs in the community. Course learning objectives are linked to meaningful human, safety, educational, and environmental needs that are co-determined with community partners and service recipients. Course materials such as lectures, readings, discussions, and reflection activities supplement the student service. In turn, the service experience is brought back to the classroom to enhance the academic dialogue and student comprehension. Students work on real problems that make academic learning relevant while simultaneously enhancing theirsocial skills, analytical ability, civic and ethical responsibility, self-efficacy, and career development.

(Fayetteville State University)

Benefits of Service Learning

For Students

  • Increase understanding of course concepts
  • Gain hands-on experience
  • Explore and/or cement values and beliefs
  • Opportunities to act on values and beliefs
  • Develop critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Grow an understanding of cultures and communities
  • Learn more about social issues and their root causes
  • Improve the ability to handle ambiguity and be open to change
  • Develop communication, collaboration, and leadership skills
  • Connect with professionals and community members

For Faculty

  • Encourage interactive teaching methods and reciprocal learning between faculty and students
  • Add new insights and dimensions to class discussionsLead to new avenues for research and publication
  • Promote students' active learning
  • Develop students' civic leadership skills
  • Attract highly motivated and engaged students
  • Foster relationships between faculty and Houston community organizations, which can open other opportunities for collaborative work

For Community Partners

  • Gain additional human resources needed to achieve organizational goals
  • Increase public awareness of key issues
  • Educate students/youth about community issues
  • Identify and access other UHD resources; build relationship with UHD faculty, students & staff

(lists adapted from: University of Minnesota, Center for Community-Engaged Learning)