Resources for Faculty

This page is a work in progress that began Spring of 2017. We will be continually adding to it to represent the full depth and breadth of Service Learning at the University. Service Learning happens throughout UConn.

Download Faculty Guidebook for Service Learning Pedagogy (PDF)


Syllabus Tips and Examples

Syllabus Tips

  • Indicate Service Learning clearly as part of the learning objectives.  Often times students are not familiar with service learning, so making it part of the syllabus can prepare the students for what to expect during the semester. Provide rationale about why service learning is important for the course and how the learning goals and objectives are connected.
  • Describe clearly how service learning will be measured, and what will be measured.
  • Describe the nature of the service aspect of the course.  Are students free to choose their own placements or will the faculty establish projects?
  • Specify the roles and responsibilities of students in regards to the community partner project (ie, transportation, time commitment, schedule, contacts, etc.)
  • Define the goals and expectations of the project for students clearly
  • Provide clear links between the course content, the service activity, and student success.
  • Describe the critical reflection process. Whether journaling, discussing, writing papers, creating portfolios, or making presentations, students should be aware of how they will be demonstrating their learning.
  • Describe if there are expectations for the public dissemination of student work.

Exemplary Service-Learning syllabi should:

  • Include service as an expressed goal
  • Clearly describe how the service experience will be measured and what will be measured
  • Describe the nature of the service placement and/or project
  • Specify the roles and responsibilities of students in the placement and/or service project, (e.g., transportation, time requirements, community contacts, etc.)
  • Define the need(s) the service placement meets
  • Specify how students will be expected to demonstrate what they have learned in the placement/project (journal, papers, presentations)
  • Present course assignments that link the service placement and the course content
  • Include a description of the reflective process
  • Include a description of the expectations for the public dissemination of students’ work

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Six Models for Service Learning

The following is from Heffernan, Kerrissa

Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. RI: Campus Compact, 2001, pp. 2-7, 9.

1. “Pure” Service-Learning

These are courses that send students out into the community to serve. These courses have as their intellectual core the idea of service to communities by students, volunteers or engaged citizens. They are not typically lodged in any one discipline.

2. Discipline-Based Service-Learning

In this model, students are expected to have a presence in the community throughout the semester and reflect on their experiences on a regular basis throughout the semester using course content as a basis for their analysis and understanding.

3. Problem-Based Service-Learning (PBSL)

According to this model, students (or teams of students) relate to the community much as “consultants” working for a “client.” Students work with community members to understand a particular community problem or need. This model presumes that the students will have some knowledge they can draw upon to make recommendations to the community or develop a solution to the problem: architecture students might design a park; business students might develop a website; or botany students might identify non-native plants and suggest eradication methods.

4. Capstone Courses

These courses are generally designed for majors and minors in a given discipline and are offered almost exclusively to students in their final year. Capstone courses ask students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their coursework and combine it with relevant service work in the community. The goal of capstone courses is usually either to explore a new topic or to synthesize students’ understanding of their discipline. These courses offer an excellent way to help students make the transition from the world of theory to the world of practice by helping them establish professional contacts and gather personal experience.

5. Service Internships

Like traditional internships, these experiences are more intense than typical service-learning courses, with students working as many as 10 to 20 hours a week in a community setting. As in traditional internships, students are generally charged with producing a body of work that is of value to the community or site. However, unlike traditional internships, service internships have regular and on-going reflective opportunities that help students analyze their new experiences using discipline-based theories. These reflective opportunities can be done with small groups of peers, with one-on-one meetings with faculty advisors, or even electronically with a faculty member providing feedback. Service internships are further distinguished from traditional internships by their focus on reciprocity: the idea that the community and the student benefit equally from the experience.

6. Undergraduate Community-Based Action Research

A relatively new approach that is gaining popularity, community-based action research is similar to an independent study option for the rare student who is highly experienced in community work. Community-based action research can also be effective with small classes or groups of students. In this model, students work closely with faculty members to learn research methodology while serving as advocates for communities.

Principles for Course Construction

In order to construct a service-learning course, faculty should consider four critical principles of a service-learning course.

  • Engagement
  • Reflection
  • Reciprocity
  • Public Dissemination

When designing a course, you should ask yourself if the course is addressing engagement, or more specifically, how the service component is serving a public good. Understanding what the course’s intent for the community is should begin the process as well as making sure the service will be valuable.

Once you have thought of the engagement principle, it is time to turn your attention to reflection which allows students to connect their course work to their service. In order for reflection to occur, there has to be a mechanism for it to done, whether it be through journals or presentations.

Third, consider whether reciprocity is evident between the service and the community. Each participant should serve the role as teacher and learner, so there is mutual benefit for the student, the organization, and the community.

Lastly, consider how your student’s service can be publicly disseminated so the public can see and benefit from the work of the students. Think of where the experience will exist after the classroom learning is over and how the public can use that experience.

Campus Compact. Heffernan, Kerrissa and Cone, Richard, “Course Organization.” Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction. Providence, RI: Campus Compact, 2001. 

Alternative SET Questions for Faculty who Teach with the Service Learning Pedagogy

The pedagogy of service learning is different than traditional teaching and because of this, the Service Learning Committee established qualitative questions/statements for those using service learning as a teaching strategy to use in the ‘questions’ section of the SET.

It is important for faculty to use these questions in order for us to make a better attempt in measuring impact on students across service learning courses. Additionally, the questions will help capture the impact of service learning more accurately for your evaluation purposes.

You may change these questions to work for you as classes and projects differ greatly across the spectrum of service learning. Please share with any faculty and let me know if you have any questions.

Questions/Statements to use:

  1. Please describe how your community site placement or service learning activity/project enhanced your understanding of course content.
  2. Please describe how service learning may have contributed to your professional and personal development.
  3. Please describe any concrete areas of improvement for this course.

Schedule for SET:

The last class date of the term is Dec. 11 according to the Registrar's calendar. The QP* for instructors teaching these classes will open at 10:00 am 21 days before the end date (Nov. 20) and close in 7 days (Nov. 26) at 11:59 pm or 21 days before the last date of the term prior to finals week. The survey will open to students 14 days before the last day of class (Nov. 27) at 12:01 am and remain open for 14 days before closing (Dec. 11).

Service Learning High Impact Practices

Kuh (2008) identified ten “high impact practices” (HIP). HIP support student learning and development in the professional/academic and personal spheres. In reviewing the high impact practices Kuh does not address the interactions between them, which we find limiting. Therefore, we have shown how service learning can and does support the various HIPs and encourage faculty members and administrators to examine how they may incorporate the various HIPs and service learning into their practice. We’ve documented the various ways in which service learning connects with the other practices beneath the model.


  • First Year Seminars and Experiences– these often fall into two categories: courses focused on developing the necessary skills necessary for academic and personal success in higher education or exposure to cutting edge research from the faculty member instructing the course. A highlight of both models is an intimate learning environment for first year students. It is our belief that service learning pedagogy can be integrated into both models of the course when done at the appropriate development level. Williams Howe Coleman, Hamshaw, & Westdijk (2015).pdf offer a three phase model of service learning that can help inform first-year student service learning experiences.
  • Learning Communities– are housing communities that are based on a common theme or academic question. There are usually courses connected with this community, and there remains an opportunity for service learning to be part of the course experience to support the holistic development goals of learning communities. Moreover, community service is frequently used with learning communities already, giving a foundation for SL and LLCs.
  • Internships- The dominant model of internships is focused on students entering a workplace and supervisors providing training and mentoring. The focus is usually on just student learning, however, if a community partner has identified a need that can be filled by a student intern there is an opportunity for the internship to be in service to both the student and the organization. For pre-professional disciplines, there is a strong potential for this linkage as documented by Rheling (2000).
  • Common Intellectual Experiences– often are initiatives such as a “common read.” For faculty using the UConn Read’s selection as a core course text, the link between the book’s  themes and social issues provide a ripe experience for service learning.
  • Collaborative Assignments– focus on collective effort that focuses on learning to work with others and the role of the self in groups.  Project-based service learning is a strong vehicle for project creation in addition to the built in pedagogical practices that support reflection.
  • Diversity-Global Learning– Kuh asserts that often the aims of increasing knowledge of our diverse world occurs in community-based contexts acknowledging the integral role service learning plays in supporting diverse learning. Additionally, study abroad experiences taught by UConn Faculty can include service learning as a framework for increasing student learning in an intentional and rigorous manner. Campus Compact has assembled resources for those interested in global service learning
  • Capstone Courses– perhaps one of the best utilizations of service learning is using the pedagogy for a culminating experience in their degree program. By using service learning in the capstone experience, students are able to apply four years of learning to a community-identified need. Students are often able to fill a critical skill-based need for organizations while reflecting on their learning and its applications as rising professionals.
  • Undergraduate Research– historically has been a dominant practice in the hard sciences, is now increasingly open to more students across a variety of disciplines. While often viewed through the co-curricular, a service learning course grounded in community-based research can provide students across many disciplines with the opportunity to engage in the scientific process while using service learning as a framework to promote development toward the common good. Stoecker, Loving, Reddy,  & Bolling, (2010) provide us with a useful conceptual model to rethink service learning and community based research.
  • Writing Intensive Courses– service learning can be integrated as a pedagogy within writing curriculum. Service Learning can be a vehicle for to propel students to practice writing for different audiences- community partners, the general public, policy makers, and themselves through reflection. Composition .pdfhas its own body of research regarding service learning that can help guide faculty members integration of service learning in writing courses.

A National Call to Action

A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy's Future, National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

Download PDF

Resources for Course Development


  • Reflection Resource: A Campus Compact Guide

Articles and Research

Faculty Orientation Informational Sheet (2014)