Service Learning

Definition
Service learning is defined as "a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning." (Jacoby, Service Learning in Higher Education, 1996)

An increasing number of universities and colleges around the world are incorporating the concept of service learning into their modes of teaching. These programs do not conform to one established model; instead they are adapted to best meet the specific educational needs of each institution and have great flexibility in operation.

Effects of Service Learning
Service learning courses connect the concepts, theories and materials covered in the classroom to service experiences in the community. The community experience becomes a core educational text for the class and is as essential to "read" as other textbooks. Such courses can provide students with context and disciplinary and methodological background critical to their ability to engage with societal issues. In partnership with local non-profit organizations, students in service learning courses apply the knowledge and analytical skills gained in the classroom to address social, environmental and cultural issues within the community. Whether they conduct surveys and report findings, take and test water or soil samples, interview local citizens for oral histories or create educational materials, students engage in this work both to deepen their understanding of an academic subject and to benefit the organizations to which they present their projects.

Forms of Service Learning
Service learning courses may feature service as an integral component of the academic course experience, may focus on service or community work as subject matter, or offer preparation for community-based s or fieldwork. Courses may be small, intensive seminars or larger lecture courses with service learning related discussion sections and experiences. The service provides material to be reflected upon and analyzed by participating students; it may include traditional, hands-on volunteer activity, s at local organizations, or class projects such as policy analysis, development of a marketing plan for a non-profit organization or prototyping adaptive technology to meet a need for the physically disabled. Service learning courses come in many forms and can be offered by faculty in any department or discipline.

How HKUST Connect Can Help
The staff of HKUST Connect will gladly work with any faculty member to explore the development of a new service learning course, or adding a service component, community-based project or assignment to an existing course. Faculty members and instructors may apply for the Service Learning Development Grant which is a funding support for community-based projects. For other resources and further information, please contact connect@ust.hk.