Service Learning

Guiding Principles to Reduce Risk in Service Learning

The following guiding principles are considered best practices throughout the field and apply to all the parties involved in service-learning experiences: service-learning staff, faculty members, community-base organizations and service-learning students. Since each service-learning course is different, these guidelines are not intended to be all encompassing. However, these do's and don'ts apply to most situations. (If you feel something included here is prohibitive to the service-learning experience you hope to offer to your students, please have a discussion that includes the faculty member, the service-learning office, and a university rank manager.) The intent of these guidelines is not to prohibit service-learning experiences, but rather, to provide best practices that allow for safe and positive service environments where the risk and liability have been minimized.

For Community-Based Organizations

  • DO thoroughly review the Service-Learning Agreement to understand the roles and responsibilities of all parities.
  • DO ensure that service learning comply with any legal requirements for background checks.
  • DO assign a supervisor for service learning at your site.
  • DO orient all service learners to your organization and its policies, procedures, clientele profile, and emergency procedures. This will ensure that service learners act in safe, positive, and productive ways during their placements.
  • DO require that service learners complete a sign-in / out sheet each time they serve, so that you are aware of who is at your organization at all times.
  • DO communicate with university representatives if your organization is experiencing any difficult time with a service learner.
  • DO ensure that you have contact information for a representative at the university, in problems arise, or accidents happen.
  • DO ensure that you have emergency contact information for service learners.
  • DO ask for a copy of the syllabus that a faculty member gives to the service learners.
  • DO review and sign each student's Learning Plan to ensure that you can help the students meet their service-learning objectives.
  • DON'T share the results of background checks with university representatives.
  • DON'T assume that any final products produced by students are the sole property of the community-based organization. The final products are the property of student, but more often then not, the student can grant rights to use the product to the community-based organization.
  • DON'T request that service learners do tasks that are beyond their capabilities as volunteers, or beyond their scope of work, as outlines in the Service Learning Agreement.
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