What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is a method of teaching and learning that intentionally integrates community service into an academic experience.

There are four foundations of a good service learning course:

  1. Engagement- the service component meets a public good
  2. Reflection – students link their service experience to the course content, and reflect upon why that service is important
  3. Reciprocity – reciprocity with the community partner is evident in the service component
  4. Public dissemination - the service work is presented to the public in some way
Source: Fundamentals of service learning course construction. Kerissa Heffernan (2001). Providence, RI: Campus Compact.


Service Learning is a high-impact educational practice
Service learning gives students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in their communities. A key element is the opportunity that students have to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. Service learning models the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.

Source: High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter by George D. Kuh, (Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2008). For information and more resources and research from LEAP, see www.aacu.org/leap.

UAB Service Learning

  • Assists faculty to integrate service learning with classroom curriculum
  • Serves as liaison for faculty, students and community partners
  • Advises faculty on quality service learning experiences
  • Addresses concerns such as academic rigor, time constraints, and liability
  • Tailors service-learning opportunities for individual students, classes, and programs