Service-learning in the writing classroom can be both short term and long term, with projects of small, medium, and large scope.
Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic and civic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.
Picking up trash on a river bank is service.
Studying water samples under a microscope is learning.
When science students collect and analyze water samples, document their results, and present findings to a local pollution control agency – that is service-learning. (National Youth Leadership Council)
Service-learning and problem-based learning often go hand-in-hand. Developing problem-based service-learning involves a great deal of coordination with community partners to find ways that writing students can help solve an organization’s problems.
Ideally, these projects should give students some real-world work experience, and not simply be menial tasks that any volunteer would be able to do. The point of service-learning is for students to gain new understanding of their field, while also providing a service for a community partner.
Beginning with a problem, the instructor and community partner discuss ways in which students can help solve the problem. In upper-division courses, students can be part of that discussion. For example, the Aquashicola Pohopoco Watershed Conservancy came to us several years ago, wanting to know how they could accomplish several tasks: preserving their extensive collection of legal documents, publicizing their court battle against rich racetrack developers, and appealing to new, younger members.
To help solve these problems, the APWC and I worked with students in both a Workplace Writing course and several sections of the Senior Seminar in Professional Writing. Links to some of their SL work appear below.
Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem. This problem is what drives the motivation and the learning. (Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation)
Problem-based service-learning projects can take the form of a number of different assignments, for courses from workplace writing to senior seminars (with links to some past projects):
To find out more about how to incorporate Service-Learning into your course, visit ESU’s Service-Learning web page.
If you already have a service-learning idea but just need to find an organization to work with, visit ESU’s Community Service Database.