Supporting Active, Engaged Learning
Academic Service Learning
Academic service-learning (ASL) incorporates community-based activities as a medium to enhance academic learning. Research has indicated that ASL can greatly develop students’ crucial academic skills such as problem analysis and critical thinking. They are also more likely to forge stronger relationships with faculty opposed to those who are not. ASL can also strengthen students’ interpersonal development, their ability to work within a group and their leadership and communication skills.
Best Practices for Working with Community Partners
The experiences of academic service-learning are very diverse: placement might be in a non-profit organization office, work directly within a shelter or on city blocks to canvas and survey the surrounding neighborhood. Regardless of the setting, there are five basic principles of professionalism that students and faculty should keep in mind: reliability, cooperation, flexibility, courtesy and respect.
- Please remember that the work you are doing satisfies the mutually defined needs between your academic course and those of the partner organization. The community partners’ needs should be independent from your expectations as well as the expectations from your class, group or other organizations.
- When first entering a community, please be aware, you are (at first) an outsider. Before going, make an effort to learn the history of the community as well as the history of other outreach experiences/endeavors to/in the community.
- Remain flexible to the needs of the community. Their timelines, expectations and experiences do not adhere to the semester schedule that faculty members and students are familiar with. Flexibility and change are inevitable in a non-structured (non-classroom) learning experience; such adaptability will be rewarded with unique learning experiences.
Quotes from Students about ASL
Through academic-service learning (ASL), students gain a more intimate/deeper understanding of course content while engaging in the civic life of a community. ASL takes students beyond the classroom and into the community; the learning opportunities it provides would be impossible to fully achieve on campus.
“Writing for Civic Literacy, taught by Professor Bill DeGenaro, partnered with St. Peters Home for Boys this fall semester. Students worked on various writing assignments that benefited the agency. One group was assigned legislative work. They assembled a community forum with local politicians in hope to get answers to some very pointed questions in regards to foster care issues. Another group created a brochure explaining the education program that the students at St. Peters go through. Others gathered a resource binder full of vocational information for students at St. Peters. Students will be able to access this and get valuable information for their futures. And finally, the last group began the year by collecting “success stories” from the students who had graduated from St. Peters. They created a T-shirt for the agency that can be used for fundraising purposes. Along with the creation of the T-shirt, St. Peters’ residents were able to learn a vocational opportunity—screen printing. The students in Professor DeGenaro’s class have learned so much from this experience and St. Peters has gained from it as well. It has been a wonderful service learning experience.”
- Kathleen Grandy, COMP 364
"Prof. Draus gave his students the opportunity to formulate ideas to help the city of Detroit after providing all of the resources we would need to complete each goal. He was also very accessible and friendly whenever I had any questions or ideas. Overall, it has been a great experience. “
- Summar Habhab, SOC 435
“My student fellowship has been in the School of Education with Dr. Katie Silverman. We have been working together in her EDC 442/542 Early Childhood: Family-School-Community Collaboration in a Multicultural Society class. Our 5 groups of students, lead by graduate student leaders, worked together in collaboration with community agencies to plan their academic service learning projects. The agencies we collaborated with are: Off The Streets, First Step, Alternatives For Girls, Oakwood Center for Exceptional Children in collaboration with the UM-Dearborn Child Care Center and Starfish Family Services/Counterpoint. Each group began by planning an activity for the community agencies clients. The groups communicated with agency contact people to check if their plans were acceptable and to ensure smooth implementation. The projects varied with different focuses dependent on the needs of the agencies and the ideas our students came up with. Some of the things focused on during the events were, a literacy night, self esteem training, team building, learning about ourselves and others with differing abilities, and a catered dinner served to women and children in a shelter. Each event brought fun and excitement to all those involved. UMD students will be reflecting on, and documenting their important work and learning during their Academic Service Learning Projects.”
- Cindy Fleming, EDC 442/542
“I am very thankful that I have taken Comp 105-030 with Professor DeGenaro. This class has guided me through a journey of writing filled with learning experiences.... This class has given me an opportunity to learn about our community and how we should get involve to make the world a better place to live in. “
- Azhar Shohatee, COMP 105
“My experience in the Service Learning Project far exceeded my initial "oh no" reaction to a semester long project. Professor Beatty made this project a integral part of learning the material that was presented in class. Not only did this put a real world working aspect in the learning, but it was also fun! From the vast knowledge and experience I gained from this project I would recommend this program to continue and even leak into some of my CASL classes if that's at all possible!”
- Josh Rzepecki, OB 354