Service learning vs. community service
Community service can be performed at any time for any reason. Although meaningful community service often leads to transformative learning, this connection becomes explicit in service learning. Community-based activities are embedded within classes or other formal learning settings and are meant to help participants achieve specific learning goals.
As a paradigm, community service has been criticized for focusing exclusively on charity or help and paying inadequate attention to deeper matters of justice. Another critique is that community service is a one-way concept focused on the transfer of resources or skills from a giver to a recipient.
Service learning emphasizes mutuality. All participants in service learning should benefit, learn and grow from the experience. Service learning also emphasizes critical reflection on conditions which create the need for various types of community service. Here are a few examples:
Students participate in a neighborhood cleanup. The community receives help with litter abatement and beautification efforts.
Students in an environmental studies course study waste collection and recycling services in the city. Students participate in a series of local clean-up projects as a way of learning about accessibility and use of these services in various neighborhoods. The community receives help with litter abatement and beautification efforts and informed recommendations on sustainable waste management.
Students host an on-campus field day for children from local schools. They organize games and other recreational activities in the quads and the university gymnasium. The community receives a safe and supervised recreational program for youth.
Students in a developmental psychology course volunteer in the recreation program at a local afterschool center. They learn how movement and healthy play affect learning, socialization, and behavior among young children. The community receives volunteer and capacity-building assistance with designing and implementing ongoing recreational programming which maximizes learning, teamwork, and inclusion among youth.