The Process: Integrating Service Into Curriculum

(Based on Eastern Michigan University’s ASL Faculty Development Manual)

Step 1: Evaluate Teaching Style

  • Teaching a course using academic service learning involves using skills and teaching styles that may be different from those used in a traditional classroom. Lecture and other traditional teaching methods may be necessary, but the instructor must also include time to let students voice their opinion and discuss observations and experiences that are related to the course content. Students, in a sense, became another resource and the faculty member becomes a facilitator for discussion.
  • The following table can be used as a checklist for an instructor who is interested in integrating academic service learning into their course.

10 Principles of Good Practice in Academic Service Learning

Principle 1:

Remember that academic credit is for learning, not for service

Principle 2:

Do not compromise academic rigor

Principle 3:

Set learning goals for students

Principle 4:

Establish criteria for selecting community placements

Principle 5:

Provide educationally sound mechanisms
to assess community learning

Principle 6:

Provide support for students to learn how
to assess community learning

Principle 7:

Minimize the distinction between the students’ community and classroom learning roles

Principle 8:

Re-think the faculty instructional role

Principle 9:

Prepare for the uncertainty and variation in student learning outcomes

Principle 10:

Maximize the community responsibility and orientation to the course



Step 2: Identify Course Goals

  • A good way to begin the design of an academic service learning component of a course is to examine the course goals and objectives. What should the students be able to know, be able to do and be like as a result of taking the course?

Step 3: Explore Academic Service Learning

  • Colleagues who have incorporated academic service learning activities into one or more of their classes can be a great resource. Most are willing to share how it works for them and assist in brainstorming ideas for other courses. The Center for Student Enrichment is able to provide assistance to those interested in academic service learning. Please call 906-227-2439 or stop by the office at 1205 University Center. Visit the Center for Student Enrichment’s academic service learning resource page at www.nmu.edu/asl to find academic service learning-trained faculty and the courses they teach, additional resource material and/or further assistance on academic service learning.
  • Three possible methods of incorporating academic service learning into a course:
  •       A short-term project where students visit an organization one to three times and provide short-term services such as cleaning a river, assisting with a building project or working on a special weekend community project. The short duration of these projects can make it difficult for the students to gain a sense of the community-organization’s purpose and the needs and resources of the organization’s clients. It may also be hard for the faculty member to find a link between the course goals and the short-term project.
  •      Students must make a commitment to visit the community-based organization two to three hours a week for a period of six or more weeks. This is a more common model for academic service learning. Students should have a greater variety of experiences and gain a deeper sense of the organization’s mission and its clients due to the longer period of time and more frequent visits. It can also clarify the link between the project and the course goals and provide opportunities for on-going reflection.
  •        If all of the needed service does not take place on site, students may work on assigned service activities in the classroom. At the end of the work period, the results can be presented to the organization representatives. This method can be used for projects that include conducting surveys, designing brochures, preparing reports and/or databases, or auditing and evaluating financial reports. This approach is logistically less complex than the other options.

Step 4: Form a Relationship with a Community-Based Organization

  • Choosing an academic service learning partner is a determining factor in the success of the ASL project. It is very important to make sure there is good fit between the goals for the course and the opportunities the community partner is able to provide.
  • Community Partner Selection Criteria
    • Obvious connection between the organization’s work and the course.
    • When possible, students should have a direct contact with the community organization’s clients and/or constituency groups.
    • Student’s work should have a clear connection to the mission of the community partner.
    • The site supervisor should be available to oversee student work when they are on-site.
    • The professor and the site supervisor should complete advance planning so students have enough activities to keep them busy, but are not overwhelmed.
    • The community partner should be willing to assist with orientation and training activities.
    • All students should have the opportunity to work at least one of the sites and/or projects being completed throughout the course.
  • The best way to learn about a potential partner is to go to the organization yourself and meet with the people who will be working with the students. In most cases, the closer the relationship is between the organization and the instructor and students, the more meaningful the learning experience. A good idea may be to invite a community organization leader out for coffee to discuss opportunities available. The ideas and plans that form during this meeting may amaze both parties. It is important to discuss items like needs, resources, course concepts, the organization’s mission, amount of time students will provide, orientations, desired outcomes and communication methods. It would also be helpful to give the community partner a copy of the course syllabus.

The Center for Student Enrichment (906-227-2439) and the NMU Volunteer Center (906-227-2466), both located in 1205 of the University Center, can offer suggestions for academic service learning sites.

Step 5: Revising Course Requirements

  • Will the academic service learning component be required?

If the course is designated as an academic service learning class in the course catalog, should the ASL experience be required?

  • How many hours of academic service learning will be required?
  • How will you connect the academic service learning project to course content in class?
  • How will you evaluate the academic service learning component?
  • What deletions or adjustments will you make in your course requirements to accumulate an academic service learning project?

Step 6: Planning Logistics

  • Resources
    • Are funds available for materials?
    • Are funds available for transportation?
  • Transportation
    • Students can car pool.
    • The Marquette County Transit Authority has fixed schedules and door-to-door routes that students can use to travel in Marquette and the surrounding areas. Students with IDs can ride free by showing their NMU identification card. For more information call 906-225-1112 or visit the Marq-Tran Web site at www.marq-tran.com/index.php.
    • The Northern Michigan University Transportation office can be contacted at 906-227-2823.
  • Scheduling
    • Professor schedule
    • Student schedule
      • If there are multiple projects in a class, it may be possible to form groups based on compatible schedules. This may help alleviate some of the  other time conflicts.
    • Monitoring student time and work
      • It is important for the community partner and the site supervisor  have a way to monitor the students’ time and work.

Step 7: Designing the Service Activities

Checklist

  • Are academic service learning experiences designed around community-identified needs?

  • Is the service activity engaging, challenging, related to key course goals and meaningful to students?

  • Are the organization’s site supervisors and the instructors significantly involved in defining and designing the academic service learning experience?

  • Are the organization’s site supervisors knowledgeable about and committed to the course goals and willing to work in partnership to achieve them?

  • Are the organization’s site supervisors willing to assist, orient, train and supervise students?

  • When and how will reflection be incorporated into the course?

Step 8: Conducting Student Orientation and Training

  • Adequate orientation is extremely important to ensure students are prepared to perform assigned activities.
  • Orientation can be done in class, on-site or at each location and done by instructor, site supervisor or both.
  • Possible topics to cover:
    • history, mission, structure and location of service sites
    • background and description of individuals that students will serve (if applicable)
    • social, political, and economic issues related to the service site setting
    • student responsibilities:
      • task assignments
      • expectations
      • role definition
      • protocol and professionalism
      • policies
      • procedures
      • dress
      • manners
      • punctuality
    • Client courtesy

    • Problem-solving around difficult situations that may arise

    • Record keeping, supervision and accountability

    • Confidentiality and professional ethics

Step 9: Connecting the Experience

  • Help students make a connection between the vivid, complex experiences in their service projects to the important ideas in their college course.
  • Reflection activities and class discussions can encourage the connection to form.
  • Relax control once in a while to allow students to share experiences that they have had.
  • Discuss guidelines with students so they know how to disagree nicely and stay on track.
  • Provide feedback to encourage productive discussions.
  • Ask probing questions:
  • “Tell me your thinking behind what you just said about…?”
  • “Do you all agree with what has just been said?”
  • “What did you see or hear that leads you to believe that?”

Step 10: Celebrating Accomplishments

  • Involve students in planning a celebration.
  • Seek input from community-based organization’s representative or site leader.
  • If students worked directly with the recipients of the service, it may be a good idea to hold a closure event with the students and recipients.
  • Encourage students to use their academic service learning experiences for Superior Edge program. For more information on the Superior Edge, contact 906- 227-6543 or visit their Web site at www.nmu.edu/superioredge.
  • Ideas
  • Certificates, buttons, party, press release, photo session or a letter from the organization are all good ways to celebrate the students’ accomplishments.
  • Send a thank you letter and a certificate of recognition to the site supervisor and organization representative.Send thank you letters to others who may have assisted students.
  • Have a formal presentation.
  • Meet with the site supervisor and community representative to celebrate, share evaluations and  plan needed revisions. This is a great way to help with the relationship between the organizations.
  • Write up your learning experiences and the students’ responses and publish them or present at a conference.