What Is Service-Learning?

Service-learning at the University of Georgia is the application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community need, issue, or problem and to enhance student learning.

Click on the link to watch a short (8-minute) video (2016) introducing Service-Learning at UGA!

Service-learning helps integrate two core aspects of UGA’s mission—teaching and service—and is explicitly recommended in UGA’s 2010-2020 Strategic Plan.

At UGA, we also use Bringle & Hatcher’s (1995) definition of academic service-learning as:

“a course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs, and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility.”

In academic service-learning, credit is not given simply for completing service hours, but for the learning that takes place. Service-learning differs from community service, internships, or field study experiences because the service activity is connected to the course learning goals through reflection and critical analysis, and seeks to balance the benefits to the student with benefits to the community partners. Additionally, the service activity-- whether structured around a placement, a project, or a deliverable-- should help enhance the public good.

Service-learning activities engage and partner with the community, whether local, state-wide or international; thus, the service activities should respond to community-identified needs, and the community should have a voice in the design and implementation of the service activity. In many cases, the community partner becomes a co-educator, and valuing this community knowledge and expertise is helpful in sustaining collaborative partnerships.