Syllabi Introduction Page 2

Preparing the Syllabus: The Fundamentals of Course Construction

To be truly effective and to minimize the potential for harm, service-learning must be well planned and integrated into the course syllabus with a clear sense of how to structure the service component and why this service activity is being utilized in this course.

How to structure the service component: Define the nature of the service and introduce a service model for the course. For example, will students perform community-based action research, problem-based service-learning, or pure service?

Why this service activity in this course: Define the service placement or project in the context of the course and the discipline.

There are four basic principles that should guide faculty in organizing and constructing a service-learning course:

Engagement: Does the service component meet a public good? How do you know this? Has the community been consulted? How? How have campus-community boundaries been negotiated and how will they be crossed?

Reflection: Is there a mechanism that encourages students to link their service experience to course content and to reflect upon why the service is important?

Reciprocity: Is reciprocity evident in the service component? How? Reciprocity suggest that every individual, organization, and entity involved in the service-learning functions as both a teacher and a learner. Participants are perceived as colleagues, not as servers and clients. (Jacoby, 1996 p.36)

Public Dissemination: is service work presented to the public or made an opportunity for the community to enter into a public dialogue? For example: Do oral histories students collect return to the community in some public form? Is the data students collect on the saturation of toxins in the local river made public? How? To whose advantage?

Once faculty have addressed these four principles, they should begin to plan the manner in which the service component will be presented in the syllabus. The presentation of service in the syllabus can be critical in shaping the educational outcomes for the course. Service cannot be presented as a mere sidebar to the course; rather, the syllabus should explain why this kind of service is a part of the course.

This requires instructors to think about the explicit connections between their course and departmental objectives; between the university’s mission and the community’s expectations; and, perhaps most importantly, between their goals and their students expectations (Woolcock,1997 p. 10). These connections are further clarified for students in how faculty structure the service component in the syllabus. This is most often evident in how faculty conceptualize the course within a specific service-learning model.

Click here for examples of how these concepts are integrated into a syllabus

Next Page : The Six Models of Service Learning
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