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Center for Service Learning and Academic Internships

Welcome to Service Learning

The California State University’s Chancellor’s Office - Center for Community Engagement (CCE) defines Service Learning as: “A teaching method that promotes student learning through active participation in meaningful and planned service experiences in the community that are substantially related to course content. Through reflective activities, students enhance their understanding of course content, general knowledge, sense of civic responsibility, self-awareness and commitment to the community.” Chancellor Dr. Timothy P. White recently characterized Service Learning as a highlighted example of a pedagogy that provides “…innovative, meaningful, and relevant learning and discovery opportunities for our students… [Service Learning] engages students with the community to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world challenges and opportunities, better preparing them for the workplace but also helping the communities along the way.”

Service Learning is the combination of academic study with service so that each is enhanced by the other. Through a process of structured reflection, the service experiences are integrated into academic courses to enrich the student learning outcomes of these academic courses. Although there are similarities with other forms of experiential learning, such as volunteering and internships, Service Learning requires a strong academic component, i.e., an intentional connection to academic study and curriculum. The service experience may develop a student’s professional skills, civic knowledge, civic skills, and social responsibility. Structured opportunities for reflection throughout the academic course deepen student’s learning of the course subject matter.


Eight Key Elements of Service Learning:

Service Learning can be incorporated into all disciplines. The following eight key elements of Service Learning address what students should know and be able to do as a result of their participation in a Service Learning course. All eight of the following elements should be present in every Service Learning activity or project and should work in concert to create powerful teaching and learning experiences. For details on the following eight elements, download the information sheet  Eight Key Elements of Service Learning here. The Service Learning experience should include the following:

  1. Meet a real community-identified need, integrating “community voice”
  2. Link to curriculum – be tied into and enhance the curriculum of the established “S” Designated Service Learning course
  3. Prepare and orient/train the student: to both the learning site/community partner organization and Service Learning pedagogy
  4. “Reciprocity”: partnerships must be reciprocal in practice, being worthwhile and valuable for all participants -- student, faculty, and community
  5. Provide systematic reflection activities that are embedded throughout the course
  6. Undergo constant development: Service Learning – both the student experience and the course evolution- occurs in different stages and on different levels
  7. Foster civic responsibility and diversity
  8. Provide ongoing, embedded evaluation with all participants aware of what will be evaluated

For more information on the benefits and effects of Service Learning on student success rates, including personal, social, and learning outcomes, along with career and civic development impacts and much more, please refer to At A Glance: What We Know about the Effects of Service-Learning on College Students, Faculty, Institutions and Communities, 1993-2000: Third Edition (Eyler, Giles, Stenson, and Gray, Vanderbilt University, August 31, 2001). This paper summarizes the findings of service-learning research in higher education over the past few years, including an annotated bibliography. Available at:

Additional information on the 10 Wingspread principles crucial to an effective service-learning program can be found in Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning: A Wingspread Special Report, by Ellen Porter Honnet and Susan J. Poulsen; published by the Johnson Foundation, Inc. Available at:


Faculty Guide for Implementation of Service Learning “S” Designated Courses


Course Development

Faculty interested in utilizing service learning pedagogy, whether creating a new course or converting an existing course to include a service learning component, should complete a New Course Proposal and Service Learning "S” Course Designation form. Please contact the Center for Service Learning & Academic Internships for support.
Original forms and a syllabus are sent to the Integrated Curriculum Committee (ICC) and copies of all three documents are sent to the Center for Service Learning and Academic Internships.
Courses must meet the minimum criteria listed on the Service Learning "S" Course Designation form to be designated as service learning. Service Learning courses have a suffix "S" following the course subject and number for identification in the catalog and course schedule.
New Course Proposal (pdf)
Service Learning "S" Course Designation Form (pdf)
Service Learning "S" Course Designation Rubric (pdf)
Service Learning (SL) Designated Courses Policy
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All faculty teaching Service Learning “S” Designated Courses are responsible for completing the Risk Management requirements established under CSU/HSU policies, which were designed to cover the activities of HSU students in Service Learning courses with community partners for course credit. This includes the required steps for establishing Learning Site Agreement paperwork for new sites/community partners. For more information on Academic Internships policy and best practices, please click here.

For a one page summary of HSU faculty responsibilities, including the four required Student Risk Documents (HSU Release of Liability, HSU Participation Guidelines, HSU Student Learning Plan, HSU Student Time Log) please refer to the document, Risk Management Requirements for Faculty Overseeing Students in Service Learning & Academic Internship Courses.

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