Service-learning is a form of experiential education which links academic study to real world experiences in community settings. It fosters civic responsibility by focusing on critical, reflective thinking and an appreciation of larger social issues inherent in a democracy. Training, supervision and evaluation are provided by supervisors at community-based organizations, in collaboration with the Montclair State University Center for Community Engagement and its faculty partners. Service-learning activities enhance academic learning, build maturity and insight, and they prepare students for active citizenship and lifelong learning. Montclair State’s Service-Learning Program was officially launched in the spring of 1996 as part of the University’s broader commitment to experiential education. Each year the service-learning program enrolls 500-600 students that it places with 25-30 community-based organizations.
The Experiential Education Committee of the Faculty Senate proposed the following definition of service-learning, which was approved by Montclair State's University Senate in May, 1998:
"Service-learning is a course-based, credit bearing educational experience inwhich students participate in an organized community-based service activity. This activity meets identified community needs, and provides a student with sufficient time to reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain a greater understanding of course content and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility."
A Service-Learning course must:
- Be formally recognized by the University.
- Include a partnership approved by the University, among faculty members, students, a grassroots organization/community agency and service recipients, which addresses an identified community need.
- Emphasize a pedagogy that requires participants to critically reflect on a service-learning experience.
- Require students to actively participate in community-based projects that address identified community needs.
- Provide both clear and explicit learning outcomes for students. The course is structured to maximize the achievement of these outcomes for students, faculty, service-learning program staff, and agency supervisors.
- Integrate theory, practice, and social responsibility.
- Include a description of the responsibilities of each student, faculty, site supervisor, and community partner.
- Include training, supervision, support, recognition and evaluation by faculty and agency partners.
- Include a mechanism for participants to provide feedback on the service-learning experience.
- Provide for evaluation procedures to assess the impact of the Program.
For more information about enrolling in service-learning courses at Montclair State, contact the Center for Community Engagement Director, Bryan Murdock, at 973-655-6831 or firstname.lastname@example.org.