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What Is Service-Learning?


There are many definitions of service-learning. Here at the University of Minnesota, we use the term to describe a teaching method that incorporates community involvement into coursework. This class-related community involvement enhances students' understanding of course materials. While deepening the learning process in this way, students build a sense of civic responsibility. At that same time, they address community-identified needs.

Every year, service-learning on the U of M, Twin Cities campus includes:
  • approximately 50 undergraduate and graduate courses
  • approximately 20 academic departments
  • approximately 2,000 students!
Support for most U of M service-learning classes is provided by the Center for Community-Engaged Learning (formerly called the Community Service-Learning Center). Our office in 240 Appleby Hall works with faculty, students, and community partners to coordinate service-learning classes. For information about our specific services, see the Services We Provide page.

Service-learning is a form of experiential education that allows students to learn by doing. Time spent working with a community-based organization becomes part of the students' homework. In service-learning classes, the community serves as a "lived text" for the class—another powerful source of information to complement course readings, lectures, and discussions.

To help students get the most from this, service-learning classes include reflection activities. Reflection helps students articulate what they've learned in their community work, and connect that to their classroom studies.