Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy, or pedagogy, that integrates meaningful community service into an academic course with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, instill a sense of civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.
Students in service learning classes report higher gains in academic skills, life skills, and civic development than students who do not participate in service-learning. Additionally, students report that service learning helps to clarify career goals, contributes to stronger relationships with peers and faculty, and results in a more satisfying learning experience. Source: Campus Compact
The primary goal of a service-learning project is for the student to gain skills relevant to his or her chosen field of study while illustrating the role those skills can play in strengthening their communities. Service-learning does this by actively engaging a student at all stages of the service-learning project. Students are often responsible for selecting their own projects and community organizations, and are continuously reflecting on the experience through online discussions, journals, class presentations and papers about their projects. Service-learning is a reciprocal process that benefits a community agency and benefits the learning of the student.
Volunteers give their time and talents to help community agencies, schools, and other entities fulfill their mission in the community. Volunteers are extremely valuable. Often, though, their service is addressing symptoms of a root problem (ex. graffiti wipeout) and they might have little or no knowledge of the mission of the institutions they serve. Volunteers generally are not engaged in reflection or academic learning.