Teaching and Learning Resources

Service Learning (Community Service Learning)

Service Learning, a form of experiential learning, is a pedagogical strategy that encompasses initiatives to provide students with opportunities to apply their discipline-specific knowledge toward the resolution of complex community-based challenges. Service-Learning | Student Success Centre, McMaster University is McMaster’s website on community service-learning and civic engagement.  It describes opportunities available to McMaster students both inside and outside of the classroom.

The instructor’s role in Course-based Service Learning is to facilitate the learning activities and guide students through active reflection on the link between their experiences and knowledge learned in the classroom. Community service learning creates invaluable learning opportunities for students. It prepares them to deal with real-world issues by increasing their awareness involving technology, politics and culture. Students also become more aware of their own and other’s beliefs and practices and presents opportunities to become more civic minded citizens. A unique aspect of service learning is that it benefits student learning as well as contributing valuable resources to their community.

Research suggests that students involved in service learning or community service learning (CSL) benefit in a number of ways:

  • Increased sense of self-efficacy as they learn that they can impact real social challenges, problems, and needs.
  • Higher academic achievement and interest in furthering their education.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities.
  • Enhanced civic engagement attitudes, skills and behaviors. Many leaders in public service today speak about how they were nurtured, inspired, and shaped in early experiences in community service or volunteering.

Chung, 1997; Coe-Regan et al, in press; Lewis-Charp et al., 2003; Tannenbaum, S. C., 2007; and YMCA of the USA, 2004)

Related Resources

Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning(CACSL) supports, educates and networks to promote the growth of CSL in Canada. Their vision is to bring students, educators and communities together to learn and work to strengthen individuals and society.  

Service-Learning: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education  is a scholarly article discussing many types and aspects of service learning.    
Next Steps for Community Service- Learning in Canada is a report from the 2009 Pan-Canadian Community Service-Learning Symposium.

How service learning affects students is a study which focuses on how service learning enhances the undergraduate education.

Sample Syllabi/Course Outlines which include Community Service                                                                                                                      

Eyler, J., Giles, D. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. An in-depth book that discusses the role of service learning for students. Available in CLL library, Mills Library 504.  Call Number: LF112