Faculty must determine the appropriate model to use; whether creating a new service-learning course or integrating service-learning into an existing course. Service-learning can be incorporated into virtually any course through a myriad of ways. Some faculty may require students to individually select projects in different agencies or they may require the entire class to work on a single project. A faculty member could offer service-learning as an extra-credit option for an existing course or they may convert a 3 SCH course into a 4 SCH course with additional time allotted for a service-learning project. Service-learning projects may be one time experiences over the course of a semester or take place for one hour a week or twenty hours within a particular semester. The faculty and community partner should determine the nature of the project and the appropriate amount of time. Regardless of the method, the decision should be discussed with the department chair and fully explained in the course syllabus. Campus Compact lists six models that describe most service-learning courses. A brief explanation of each taken from Campus Compact follows:
1) “Pure” Service-Learning
These courses have as their intellectual core the idea of service to communities. The intention is to foster community awareness and civic engagement within the students. They are not typically lodged in any one discipline. For example, a course like Service-Learning 200 Introduction to Service with the Elderly, might require students to have experience in a community agency where they spend time observing, listening and engaging in dialogue with the elderly. The students may be asked to keep a weekly journal, write an essay or give a final presentation on their experiences.
2) Discipline-Based Service-Learning
Any discipline may expect students to have a presence in the community throughout the semester and reflect on their experiences using course content as a basis for their analysis and understanding. An example might be a course like Social Work 332: Social Work Practice with the Elderly. This course might examine the developmental stages of aging and evaluate care, treatment and services for the elderly across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. An assignment might be to write a paper based on theories of aging presented in class and their application to observations from activities with the elderly in different community agencies.
3) Problem-Based Service-Learning
In this model, generally upper level students are presumed to have knowledge they can apply to working with community members to understand a particular community problem or need. In this sense, they relate to the community much as consultants working for a client in trying to develop solutions to community problems. For example, after participating in a local Town Hall meeting where residents identify their most important community needs, students in the Community Development Program might spend the semester collecting research and designing solutions for a linear park in response to the identified community needs as a culmination of their research.
4) Capstone Course
These courses are generally designed for majors and minors in a given discipline and are offered almost exclusively to students in their final year. Capstone courses ask students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their coursework and combine it with relevant service in the community. The goal of capstone courses is either to explore a new topic or to synthesize students understanding of their discipline. These courses offer an excellent way to help students make the transition from the world of theory to the world of practice by helping them establish professional contacts and gather personal experience.
5) Service Internship
Like traditional internships, these experiences are more intense than typical service-learning courses, with students working as many as 10 to 20 hours a week in a single community setting. As in traditional internships, students are generally charged with producing a body of work that is of value to the community or site. Service internships have regular and on-going reflective opportunities that help students analyze their new experiences using discipline-based theories. These reflective opportunities can be done with small groups of peers, in one-on-one meetings with faculty advisors, or even electronically with a faculty member providing feedback. Service internships are further distinguished by their focus on reciprocity.
6) Undergraduate Community-Based Action Research
Similar to independent study, this relatively new approach is for the student or a small group of students, who are highly experienced in community work. In this model, students work closely with faculty members to learn research methodology while serving as advocates for communities. An example of such a research project might be students and faculty working with the local school board and Hispanic Council to determine strategies for improving parent participation in their child’s public school experience, including teachers meetings and extracurricular activities. Regardless of the model the faculty selects, service-learning activities enhance the community through the service provided and build powerful learning consequences for the students providing the service.