Why Service Learning?

College students say they are looking for new ways to get involved in the community and they are interested in issues of social justice and democracy. For many, civic engagement comes from community service. Today's youth are more likely to report being involved in their community, in their spiritual beliefs and their families than were youth a decade ago. A 1999 Quinnipiac University Poll of Connecticut residents found that residents aged 18 to 34 were just as likely to say they have volunteered in the community as older residents were.

Still, college students face a culture that places greater value on personal advancement than the good of communities. A 1998 study found that people between the ages of 15 to 24, by a two-to-one margin, care more for career goals, personal success and family than for more group-oriented goals like voting or helping the local community be a better place to live.

Universities and faculty are in a unique position not only to measure levels of civic engagement and indifference but also to create an environment and a curriculum that enables students to grapple critically with the meanings of community, citizenship and participation. Can colleges and universities help students do a better job of being citizens while still upholding high standards of academic performance? Quinnipiac University believes it can make a positive difference.

Quinnipiac and other institutions have adopted policies and programs that encourage faculty and students to experiment with service learning approaches to learning. Service learning is based on the idea that concrete experiences in the local community should be enhanced and deepened by reflection and theory. Despite the fact that research has shown that we remember only 10 percent of what we hear, 15 percent of what we see and a mere 20 percent of what see and hear, these remain the basic sense modalities stimulated in most education experience. Service learning strategies recognize that we retain 50 percent of what we do, 80 percent of what we do with active guided reflection and 90 percent of what we teach or give to others.

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