About Service-Learning

Community Service-Learning is an educational approach integrating community service with intentional learning activities.

Mosaic benches at Grant's Tomb, Jul 2008 - 45Students, educators , and communities build partnerships to learn from each other while working together to strengthen individuals, communities, and society.

Therefore, community service-learning is a unique form of experiential learning that has distinct differences from traditional volunteerism, co-op, internship, and practicum opportunities, and most forms of corporate service-learning.

First of all, participants are not paid, although all should benefit.  Service-learning’s primary goal is not professional training and development, although all participants learn.  It is not primarily a way for organizations to obtain free labor and future employees or volunteers, although meaningful services must have the potential to add real value. Instead, service-learning builds and sustains inter-sectoral partnerships by offering short-term service that strengthens the skills and knowledge of all its participants, builds local communities, and enhances our broader society.

If this vision of service-learning inspires you, please explore the CACSL blog and website and consider commenting, contributing, donating, or becoming a member!

Types of community service

Cornucopia underway 3Service may take the form of a weekly service placement in the community, a short term project, research assistance, the creation or testing of a product or service, planning or running an event, or participating in awareness-raising, activism or social change.

Service may be located in the local community, within organizations and institutions, online or in public forums, or in partnerships that work across regions in a city, province, the country, or internationally.

Types of Program Structures

Service-learning is based on partnerships. Usually the three main partners involved are 1) educators, usually at K-12 schools, colleges and universities, 2) community partners who are organizations or citizen groups outside of the classroom or educational institution, and 3) students who agree to serve and learn within the programs, courses, or projects jointly designed by the educator(s) and community partner(s).

A Comprehensive Framework for CSL_img_3

From "A Comprehensive Framework for Community Service-Learning in Canada" (Gemmel and Clayton, 2009) Published by CACSL, 2009

See Attached PDF: A Comprehensive Framework for CSL , CACSL, 2009

Program structures vary depending on who is hosting and leading the service and the learning, and where the service activities are carried out.

  • Curricular or Co-Curricular service learning
    • Curricular = embedded within a credit course (curriculum), where service contributes to assignments or graded components
    • Co-curricular = a non-credit service-learning program offered by an educational institution in which volunteers not only go through initial training but also meet regularly for instruction and reflection on their service roles and activities to gain broader knowledge and insight
  • Community-based education
    • Community organizations offer programs that join volunteer service with a structured pattern of learning, such as Katimavik and Canada World Youth.
    • Community members or organizations may provide education with or without the involvement of K-12 or post-secondary teaching staff or accreditation through a formal educational institution.
  • Community-based research
    • Projects where research is the main goal, method, and outcome of service and learning
    • Research and student-led inquiry may also be embedded within any type of community service and any other program structure

Again, if this vision of service-learning inspires you, please explore the CACSL blog and website and consider commenting, contributing, donating, or becoming a member!