Service-learning is frequently interpreted to refer to all methods of experiential education, however, there are several key components of service-learning which are distinguishable from other types of experiential education, such as clinical training, volunteerism, internships, and field study. Service-learning, as defined by the HPSISN (Health Professions Schools in Service to the Nation) Program, is "a structured learning experience which combines community service with preparation and reflection. Students participating in service-learning activities are not only expected to provide direct community service but also to learn about the context in which the service is provided, and to understand the connection between the service and their academic course work.
- Are developed in collaboration with the community;
- Enhance the standard curriculum by extending learning beyond the lecture hall;
- Foster civic and social responsibility;
- Allow students to apply what they have learned to real world situations;
- Provide time for reflection, leadership development and discussion;
- Foster a sense of caring for others;
- Identify and meet community needs and assets."
Reciprocal and Mutual Benefits:
Service-learning includes reciprocal and mutual benefits for all stakeholders. Reciprocal learning presents an opportunity for all participants in a service-learning program: faculty, community partners, and students have roles of both teachers and learners.
Service-learning is based on the pedagogical principle that learning and development do not necessarily occur as a result of experience itself but as a result of a reflective component explicitly designed to foster learning and development.
Service-learning has shifted the common practice and philosophy of teacher from "informant" to "facilitator". As a facilitator, faculty probe students to think in new ways about health, education, the delivery of care, the community, and their role as a health professions student. Also, many promotion and tenure guidelines include service (service-learning as legitimate scholarly activity) alongside research and teaching.
The following information was modified and condensed from an article by Kara Connors and Sarena Seifer titled "Service-Learning in Health Professions Education: What is service-learning, and why now", found on pages 11-17 in:
Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. A Guide for Developing Community-Responsive Models in Health Professions Education, San Francisco: UCSF Center for the Health Professions, 1997.