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Service-Learning: Preparation, Action, Reflection

​Service-learning projects must include academic preparation, service activities, and structured reflection.

1. Preparation

Equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed for service. This includes teaching students about their community and how to identify needs, as well as providing them with the specific skills needed to perform the service activity. It should include an exploration of why it is important to perform service and what it means to be an active citizen. Ideally, service-learning should be used to teach curricular objectives, so preparation activities could be tied to classroom lessons.

Examples: having a speaker come in to teach students about working with elderly residents in a nursing home before going to visit the site; having a representative from the United Way or a Volunteer Center come and talk about the volunteer opportunities in a community; performing a research assignment about the issue the service relates to (homelessness, recycling, etc).

2. Action

Performing one or more of the following activities:

Direct Service: Students have face-to-face contact with the service recipients. For example: tutoring; serving meals at a homeless shelter; working with the elderly in a nursing home, etc.

Indirect Service: Students perform a service without having face-to-face contact with the recipient. Usually resources are channelled to help alleviate a problem. For example: food & clothing drives; thons or fundraisers; environmental projects, etc.

Advocacy: Students educate others about a particular issue with the goal being to eliminate the cause of a particular problem. For example: writing letters to legislators or editors; preparing and displaying posters, plays, or other educational materials for others, etc.

3. Reflection

Thinking about the service performed and how it impacted the community. Considering what worked well and what could be changed to make the project better. This contemplation and evaluation should occur throughout the service experience, not just at the end of the project.

Examples: responding to guided questions in a journal; having a classroom discussion; preparing a piece of artwork or skit about the service experience; videotaping the project and reviewing/discussing it afterwards, etc.

For more reflection activites, try:

Contact Information:
Reginald Burke, M.S.
Director, Youth Development Branch
Maryland State Department of Education
410-767-0313 office