Within the scope of service learning at the university, students engage in meaningful service to the community while, at the same time, taking part in academic courses. In these courses, the students acquire academic knowledge as well as methodological skills which they reflect on and apply to their experiences.
Service learning courses generally last at least three months, but could also span several semesters. For the learning and (service) activity to be successful, it is vital that the students be comprehensively instructed on the practical tasks, the scientific context as well as the organizational framework conditions of the actual service learning process. Students will be provided with instruction herein during an opening session prior to starting their community service, hereafter referred to as the (civic) engagement. Once they have completed their civic engagement, the correlation between their practical experiences and the academic course content will be discussed at a closing session, in which individual service activities will also be honored.
Service learning is an integral part of the university curriculum. This means that students can earn credits or obtain certificates of achievement for their studies by participating in service learning courses. Objectives of service learning are:
- to combine curriculum-based learning with practical experience and civic responsibility
- to expand the students' professional, methodological and personal skills
- to establish a sustainable link between theoretical knowledge and what they learn from practical experience
- to heighten problem-solving skills and the ability to transfer knowledge
- to encourage applied research
From the perspective of university faculty, service learning is a method of teaching and learning. From the perspective of community organizations, service learning is a type of civic engagement. The students' service activities usually take place at non-profit organizations, which as community partners provide the realistic context and organizational framework for the service.
Service learning is becoming increasingly popular in Germany. There are possible misunderstandings:
- Service learning is not an internship
- Service learning is not being remunerated
- Service learning is not „strictly“ volunteer work, but is always linked to university studies and teaching
> Backhaus-Maul, Holger/Ebert, Olaf/Frei, Nadine/Roth, Christiane/Sattler, Christine (2015): Service Learning mit internationalen Studierenden. Konzeption, Erfahrungen und Umsetzungsmöglichkeiten. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.