San Diego State University’s Service Learning and Community Engagement Program (SLCEP)initiatives are designed and implemented for fostering civic engagement, civic participation and civic responsibility. Specifically, the goals of the SLCEP are to integrate service learning with other high-impact practices, such as study abroad and participatory action research (PAR); to document student learning in community contexts; and to continue developing a system to track SDSU community service contributions and partnerships. The SLCEP supports service learning courses that are purposefully created with the intent to provide community-based opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct research related to solving real-world problems; strengthen the community service and civic engagement curriculum through clearly articulated student learning outcomes and aligned assessments; and identify local, regional, national and/or international community initiatives, agencies, and partners, that are engaged in social justice practices/services. The SLCEP continues to strengthen and increase the number of community partnerships at SDSU that support service learning.
Service learning courses incorporate essential civic knowledge capacities and learning outcomes that ensure students’ ability to explicate course content as they serve the community and reflect on the connections between structured formalized learning and their experiences in the field. “Essential requirements of service learning are that the service is connected with the coursework and that, through critical reflection, students make the connections between their service experiences and the abstract concepts of the coursework. Other requirements are that the coursework is assessed (but not the service per se) and that the service meets community needs” (Deeley, 2010, p. 43).
An effective service learning course is innately multidisciplinary, emphasizes collaborative learning, is built upon carefully articulated civic capacities and student learning outcomes and has a pedagogically sound assessment methodology for evaluating learning success (Metcalf, 2010). The alignment of civic capacities and student learning outcomes with the service learning experiences along with the integration of explicit and reciprocal feedback loops for students and community constituents to acknowledge the contributions made by each other creates essential opportunities for deeper understanding of course material (Muwana & Gaffney, 2011).