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Memorial Union


Service Learning

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is more than community service…it is a form of experiential education that combines community service with meaningful reflection.

According to the National Community Service Act of 1990, "Service-Learning means a method:

  • Under which students learn and develop through active participation in…thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs;
  • That is integrated into the students' academic curriculum or provides structured time for a student to think, talk, or write about what the student did and saw during the service activity;
  • That provides students with the opportunities to use newly acquired skills and knowledge in real-life situations in their own communities;
  • That enhances what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community and helps to foster the development of a sense of caring for others."

Benefits & Objectives for Service-Learning in the Curriculum


  • Encourages students to become active learners in the classroom
  • Promotes critical thinking
  • Creates community partnerships
  • Realizes the concept of "The University as Citizen"
  • Promotes values of diversity
  • Increases retention rates
  • Increases academic self-confidence
  • Teaches citizenship and social responsibility
  • Builds campus community
  • Increases leadership skills and abilities


  • To provide students with experiential learning opportunities that complement the curriculum
  • To increase student understanding of local, state, and national community issues
  • To encourage students to take responsibility, as citizens, for offering proactive solutions to social problems
  • To create a bond between NDSU and the Fargo-Moorhead community

Volunteer Network Can Assist You

Volunteer Network will

  • Assist faculty in developing potential service projects to complement course curriculum;
  • Assist faculty in identifying appropriate agencies to meet course objectives;
  • Provide a classroom presentation regarding the Service-Learning opportunity;
  • Initiate contact with the selected agency;
  • Provide reflection activities at the conclusion of service projects.

Faculty will

  • Determine course objectives to be achieved through Service-Learning;
  • Incorporate project into course curriculum;
  • Determine grading structure for the Service-Learning experience;
  • Select appropriate agency or agencies for project(s);
  • Establish and maintain positive working relationships with community partner(s);
  • Be enthusiastic supporter of the experience;
  • Provide relevant feedback to Volunteer Network regarding the experience.

Developing a Service-Learning Course

Three steps for effective Service-Learning activities:

1. Planning and Preparation - Students are oriented to the project, expectations and service site.

Action Steps:

  • Establish course objectives
  • Target appropriate community partners
  • Presentation: Introduction to Service-Learning
    • Function of agency
    • Community needs the agency meets
    • Days and hours the agency is open
    • Responsibilities and duties the students will perform
  • Trouble-shoot difficult situations
  • Set both academic and personal goals

2. Meaningful Service - The service must be meaningful to both the student and the community.

Actions Steps:

  • How does the service relate to classroom curriculum?
  • What larger societal issues are involved at the service site?
  • What specific issues are encountered that relate to the U.S. political/social system?
  • How are the volunteers and service site perceived by those receiving services?
  • Does this experience impact the educational goals?

3. Structured Reflection - Students reflect on their experiences.

Action Steps:

  • Assess the connection of the Service-Learning experience to course objectives
  • Problem solve specific issues
  • Evaluate benefits, including:
    • Personal development
    • Social development
    • Career development
    • Value clarification
  • Recognize misconceptions
  • Assess knowledge of community and social issues
  • Evaluate students based on learning, not hours of service

Enhancing an Existing Course

Service-Learning projects can be incorporated into every course offered at NDSU. The potential for student learning is increased through the hands-on approach and students begin to see their roles as citizens within a community.

Service-Learning is different from traditional volunteering in that students are actively applying concepts learned in the classroom to their service projects and are encouraged to take personal responsibility for their actions. The following examples illustrate this difference…

Service: Students in a biology course spend an afternoon cleaning up the waterfront area along the Red River.
Learning: Students in a biology lab study microorganisms that contaminate water and that may be found in the Red River Valley.
Service-Learning: Students in a biology course spend an afternoon cleaning up the waterfront area along the Red River, looking for signs of water pollution. They take water samples back to be studied in the biology lab and report their findings to local Department of Natural Resources representatives. The students discuss their findings in class and reflect on the sources of pollution and potential remedies.

Questions to consider in developing a Service-Learning course…

1. What are the stated course objectives?
2. How can service experiences assist in achieving these objectives?
3. How will the service experience fit into the structure of the course?
4. Will service be a required or optional component?
5. How many hours of service will be required?
6. What role will community partners play?
7. What role will the Volunteer Network program play?


A structured reflection project or activity transforms community service into service-learning.

Effective reflection should answer the following questions:

What? Explanation of Experience - Student shares details of what services were performed for the agency, the mission of agency, etc.

So What? Compare/Contrast - Student compares/contrasts himself/herself to those served by the agencies and reflects on those differences and similarities.

Now What? Integration of Learning - Student reflects on the meaning of the experience and asks what he/she can do address the specific social issues.

Please consider one of the following options - or develop one of your own - that will enhance the experience for students and complement the course objectives.

Reflection Techniques
General - Classroom/Discussion Reflection

  • Involve community partners and/or other community members to reflect on the experience with students
  • Discuss topics and broader issues, framing service experience in the context of literary or historic themes
  • Use complementary reading(s) as preparation for service activity
  • Have students develop their own objectives and activities
  • Research an issue or policy and share with the community agency, possibly for implementation

Writing/Reading Reflection Activities

  • Journals (structured with guidelines and questions)
  • Document pre- and post-experience attitudes
  • Use as a program evaluation tool
  • Dialogue journals (other students, instructor, or community member responds to entries)
  • Policy papers
  • Newsletters, brochures, websites, etc.
  • Share writing, journals, or research papers as class presentations or small group work
  • Provide relevant readings that present themes or provide context
  • Use other reading tools (i.e., a critical letter from a community partner)

In developing reflection activities, consider the following:

1. Present options for students that address different learning styles
2. The setting or environment should be appropriate
3. Do not allow themes to become too value-laden
4. Talk with students/participants about their typical expectations for an academic course as compared with the Service-Learning course


Service Learning Resources

The following resources are available for checkout through the Volunteer Network in the Student Activities Office, Room 120 in the Memorial Union:

Albert, Gail, Editor. Service-Learning Reader: Reflections and Perspectives on Service. Raleigh, North Carolina: National Society for Experiential Education, 1994.

Bhaerman, Robert, Karin Cordell, and Barbara Gomez. The Role of Service-Learning in Educational Reform. Needham Heights, MA: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Eyler, Janet and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. Where's the Learning in Service-Learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999.

Ferrari, Joseph R. and Judith G. Chapman. Educating Students to Make-A-Difference: Community-Based Service Learning. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc., 1999.

Gordon, Rick, Editor. Problem Based Service Learning: A Fieldguide for Making a Difference in Higher Education. Keene, New Hampshire: Campus Compact for New Hampshire, 2000.

Jacoby, Barbara and Associates. Service-Learning in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996.

Lisman, C. David. Toward a Civil Society: Civil Literacy and Service Learning. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey, 1998.

Loeb, Paul Rogat. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

McCurley, Steve and Sue Vineyard. Measuring Up: Assessment Tools for Volunteer Programs. Downers Grove, Illinois: Heritage Arts Publishing, 1997.

Rohnke, Karl and Steve Butler. Quicksilver: Adventure Games, Initiative Problems, Trust Activities and A Guide to Effective Leadership. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1995.

Stanton, Timothy K. and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., Nadinne I. Cruz. Service-Learning: A Movement's Pioneers Reflect on Its Origins, Practice, and Future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999.

West, Edie. 201 Icebreakers: Group Mixers, Warm-Ups, Energizers, and Playful Activities. New York: McGraw Hill, 1997.

Zlotkowski, Edward, Editor. AAHE's Series on Service-Learning in the Disciplines. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 2000.

Balliet, Barbara J. and Kerrissa Heffernan, Editors. The Practice of Change: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Women's Studies.

Community Service - Learning Resources for Students

FirstLINK ( Located in Fargo - Moorhead) -

Learn & Serve -

Points of Light Foundation -

Community Service - Learning Resources for Faculty

Campus Compact -

Minnesota Campus Compact -


Contact us:

Phone: 701.231.1055
Office: Student Activities Office, Room 120 in the Memorial Union
Snail Mail: PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050

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Service Learning

Faculty, Deans, and Departments can log your Service Learning Hours HERE


Download the criteria and nomination form for the Service Learning Award
Nominations are due March 3, 2014

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
Administration Phone: +1 (701) 231-8241
Campus address: Memorial Union
Physical/delivery address: 1401 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5340 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: Memorial Union

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 04, 2014 8:45:05 AM