Community Engagement & Leadership

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What is Service Learning?

Service-Learning combines structured learning opportunities with active participation in the community, relating the content and objectives of a course to issues in the community. Service-learning courses combine meaningful service in communities with critical reflection on the ethical, intellectual, and civic aspects of students’ experiences.

A wide variety of activities can meet this criteria, including: oral history research, grant and proposal writing, information management, video production, organization and management analysis, translation services, performances, publicity, statistical research, opinion research, and financial consultation.

CEL professional staff members are available to provide administrative and logistical support for your service-learning classes. We believe in tailoring the class development process to the instructional needs and objectives of your courses, making the integration of service-learning as seamless as possible.

Available Services

  • Assistance with identifying and contacting appropriate agencies and non-profit groups for your students' community placements.
  • Service-Learning Resource Center with books, articles, syllabi, assessment tools, risk management information, and other materials.
  • Campus event planning assistance for programs that promote service, civic engagement, and awareness of a variety of issues and subjects.
  • Workshops and roundtables on topics of current interest.

What are the Benefits of Service-Learning?

  • Fosters civic competence and engagement among students
  • Provides relevant and meaningful service to the community

Among students, there are increased critical thinking skills, increased levels of understanding national and community problems, and an increased sense of civic responsibility.  In SMU service-learning courses, a majority of students completing evaluations reported that their service made them more aware of community problems.

Service-Learning Principles

  1. Academic credit is for learning, not for service.
  2. Do not compromise academic rigor.
  3. Set learning goals for students.
  4. Establish criteria for the selection of community service placements.
  5. Provide educationally sound mechanisms in order to best learn from the community.
  6. Provide support for students to learn how to learn from the community.
  7. Minimize the distinction between the student’s community learning role and the classroom learning role.
  8. Rethink the faculty instructional role.
  9. Be prepared for uncertainty and variation in student learning outcomes.
  10. Maximize the community responsibility orientation of the course.

Jeffrey Howard, Praxis I, 1993.


Service-Learning Sample Syllabi

The following online resources can be used to aid in the development of service-learning courses:


For further information, contact Community Engagement & Leadership, at 214-768-4403 or at