Service Learning - Definition

What is Service Learning 

Service Learning is a form of experiential education characterized by all of the following:

  • student participation in an organized service activity
  • participating in service activities connected to specific learning outcomes
  • participation in service activities that meet identified community needs
  • structured time for student reflection and connection of the service experience to learning

Abes, Jackson & Jones(2002)

The difference between Service Learning and other services

Service-learning is not the same as...

Volunteerism: Volunteers engage in service for a variety of personal reasons. They do not necessarily link their service to academic studies nor do they receive academic credit for their efforts.

Community Service: People engaging in community service do so for a variety of reasons. This is a broad term that can encompass court ordered, stipended or volunteer service. It also does not necessarily link to academic studies.

Work Study Internship: Student interns frequently work at for-profit business to benefit the financial standing of that business. They are not necessarily working to improve their communities through these internship experiences. There can be overlap between work study internships and service-learning. Students are engaged in service-learning if through their internship experiences they work to improve the health or welfare of their community while linking this to their academic studies.

(Maryland State Department of Education; MSDE)

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