Best Practices for Service-Learning
These best practices are intended to support planning and evaluation efforts at the instructional and program design level.
BEST PRACTICE 1
Curricular goals are defined and stated.
EXAMPLE: During service to improve the local nature trail, students are given the task of mapping four individual animal and plant habitats.
BEST PRACTICE 2
Student achievement of curricular goals is regularly assessed.
EXAMPLE: The habitat maps are compared to a rubric or checklist of expectations provided to students beforehand.
BEST PRACTICE 3
Service goals that meet a genuine community need are clearly stated.
EXAMPLE: Students understand that without their help and care, the nature trail will become unusable.
BEST PRACTICE 4
Service goals are evaluated.
EXAMPLE: Students, teacher, and a community advisor (if one is involved), look at the results of the trail clean-up and determine how successful it was and what more could be done.
BEST PRACTICE 5
The learning and service goals stretch participants to develop in new or challenging ways.
EXAMPLE: Students are responsible for working in teams, organizing their own tools and jobs, and deciding when they will break to do the map assignment.
BEST PRACTICE 6
Selection, design and evaluation of the project is shared by all participants, especially students.
EXAMPLE: Students, teacher, and community advisor investigate and discuss needs, and eventually brainstorm a list of tasks to accomplish on the trail. Each shares in the final evaluation.
BEST PRACTICE 7
Opportunities are offered to discuss and value differences or to interact with a variety of individuals or groups.
EXAMPLE: Community advisor is a senior citizen who uses a cane and walks slowly. Students help her through difficult places on the trail.
BEST PRACTICE 8
Connections to the community are made that build knowledge about the community, identify community resources, and cultivate partnerships.
EXAMPLE: The community advisor asks if she can bring her birdwatching group to the nature trail for a guided tour by the students.
BEST PRACTICE 9
All participants are prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to perform the service.
EXAMPLE: Students understand through previous walks on the trail where there are things to look out for (poisonous plants, wasp nests, etc.).
BEST PRACTICE 10:
All participants are involved in multiple methods of reflection.
EXAMPLE: Students sit in their groups to evaluate their group’s work, and then write with the larger group in their field journals.
BEST PRACTICE 11
All achievements are celebrated and all participants are recognized.
EXAMPLE: The trail group’s work is recognized at all-school meeting, and they invite their community partners to attend.
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