Service-Learning

The Prevention Researcher, Volume 18, Number 1, 2011, Item# 181

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[Editor's Note: For a limited time only, preview a free PDF of our introductory article by Dr. James Kielsmeier. This complementary article is available here.]

Service-learning is an approach which links active learning to community service. Since it involves a learning component, many people assume that this educational approach is only of interest to those in the school system. However, service-learning also has a strong community component. Some afterschool and community-based programs provide service-learning experiences, and since service-learning often involves youth doing service in the community, community-based organizations can benefit from knowing the rationale of service-learning activities and programs. This issue explains service-learning, explores how it can best be implemented for optimal impact, and highlights how it benefits youth when done correctly.

We begin with an article by Dr. James Kielsmeier, founder of the National Youth Leadership Council, who explores the history, present, and future of service-learning, including recent efforts to establish standards for quality service-learning practice.

Next, Dr. Shelley Billig of RMC Research Corporation of Denver expands on these service-learning standards, exploring the research behind the standards and their accompanying indicators. By understanding these eight standards those who are developing service-learning programs and activities can ensure that they are getting the most from their efforts.

Then, Dr. Judith Nelson and Susan Sneller explore service-learing for “at-risk” youth by showcasing two service-learning programs, and mapping the components of these programs to the standards discussed by Dr. Billig.

Finally, we conclude with an interview with Dr. Carla Roach of the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development. In this interview, we explore how the eight service-learning standards are playing out in service-learning experiences offered by community-based organizations.

It is our hope that this issue showcases the benefit of service-learning in helping youth successfully transition to adulthood; encourages schools and afterschool programs to create effective service-learning experiences for youth; shows what well-designed programs look like; and persuades community-based organizations to become involved in this exciting learning experience.

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