ASL/CEL Glossary of Terms and Definitions

What are Academic Service-Learning and Community Engaged Learning?

Below are specific definitions for the purpose of completing the application for course designation of Academic Service-Learning (ASL) or Community Engaged Learning (CEL). Fuller descriptions, information and resources are also provided at the CCE's ASL website

Definition of Terms

Academic service-learning (ASL) is an academic course characterized by all of the following conditions: credit-bearing with required student participation in an organized direct or indirect service activity that meets a community need and is connected to course content and specific learning outcome(s) with structured reflection and evaluation.

credit-bearing—course offers 2 or more academic credits required student participation—all students enrolled in the course are required to engage in some community-based activity; there are no alternatives offered to this component of the course

organized—students may work individually or in groups; the service may be selected by the students or assigned by the instructor; the service expectations are clearly articulated prior to beginning

direct service—activity carried out to benefit community members, which usually involves direct contact with the group or entity being served (e.g., serving food to local residents at a community meal, helping to walk dogs at the human society, mentoring local youth at an after-school program, performing trail maintenance at a local park)

indirect service—activity to benefit the community, often to enable organizations to better serve residents through capacity-building (e.g., working with a food bank to manage a food distribution event, developing a needs assessment instrument to determine community nutritional needs, developing a marketing packet to attract donors to the human society, conducting a fund raising event to benefit a local after-school program, working with government to develop a long-term strategic plan for upgrading and expanding a local park )

community—those being impacted may include a specific target population or more generally; may include people living in local, regional, national or global settings, as identified by instructor

need—the service is clearly linked to a community problem or issue, preferably identified by community members themselves

connected to course content—the identified community need and service being provided are directly related to course material, such as themes, concepts, perspectives, skills, and/or other aspects, and it is clear how the service contributes to and enhances student understanding and learning

specific learning outcome(s)—one or more course learning objective(s) is developed that directly relates to the service performed and reflect the expectation that students will master them

structured reflection—specific activities and assignments that provide opportunities to think about and integrate student learning and service performed; may generate new insights and more thoughtful questions; should result in a deeper understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (examples include: directed writings, small group discussions, class presentations, and journaling)

evaluation—intentional assessment of student performance and learning outcomes as they relate to service performed; should measure degree to which learning outcomes were met; ideally will include assessment conducted by community partner, as well; clearly indicates how assessment of the service course component requirement and related learning outcome(s) contribute to the final grade

Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is a credit-bearing academic course in which students are involved in a community setting such that the experience is linked to course content, enriches learning, and benefits the community in some way.[CEL can be used to designate a course that may become ASL eventually, or is fully
developed in its present form.]

credit-bearing—course offers 1 or more academic credit(s)

involved—students are expected to engage for a designated number of hours, though all students may not be required to participate; may include service, community observation, communicating with community residents or organizations, etc.

community setting—on or off campus locations; may be associated with specific target population or more generally; may include local, regional, national or global settings, as identified by instructor

linked to course content—the experience is directly related to course material, such as themes, concepts, perspectives, skills, and/or other aspects

enriches learning—the experience is intentionally designed to advance student understanding of course content and may support one or more course learning objective(s); ideally, will provide opportunities to reflect on experience in relation to course content; also learning outcomes should be assessed in some fashion

benefits the community—student engagement somehow aids residents, community organizations, or others; perhaps related to a specific problem or issue {examples include: clean-up of a recreational park, design of a website to increase service access, or free public music performance)

Fuller Explanation (also see CCE's ASL website)

Courses identified as Academic Service-Learning and Community Engaged Learning are grounded in experiential education pedagogy, which utilizes teaching strategies that integrate meaningful community-based activities with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience. They demonstrate a commitment to both learning and service by providing an environment that engages the learner directly in the phenomena being studied, resulting in students putting theory into practice with intentional learning outcomes.

Based on research conducted over ten years, community–based learning has been identified as a "high impact educational practice" by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. (G.D. Kuh, 2008, ) The report states that these types of teaching strategies "...have been widely tested and have been shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds... [and result in] increased rates of student retention and student engagement. " (ibid)

Distinctive Characteristics of Academic Service-Learning
• Is positive, meaningful and real to the participants
• Uses experiential strategies characterized by student participation in an organized service activity
• Provides structured time for students to analyze and connect the service experience to learning
• Involves cooperative rather than competitive experiences and thus promotes skills associated with teamwork and community involvement and citizenship
• Addresses complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation
• Offers opportunities to engage in problem-solving by requiring participants to gain knowledge of the specific context of their service-learning activity and community challenges, rather than only to draw upon generalized or abstract knowledge such as might come from a textbook; as a result, ASL offers powerful opportunities to acquire the habits of critical thinking; i.e. the ability to identify the most important questions or issues within a real-world situation
• promotes deeper learning because the results are immediate and uncontrived; there are no "right answers" in the back of the book
• experience that enhances understanding that leads to more effective action
• as a consequence of this immediacy of experience, ASL is more likely to be personally meaningful to participants and to generate emotional consequences, to challenge values as well as ideas, and hence to support social, emotional and cognitive learning and development

Academic Service-Learning is not:
• An episodic volunteer program
• An add-on to an existing college curriculum
• Logging a set number of community service hours in order to graduate
• Compensatory service assigned as a form of punishment by the courts or by school administrators
• One-sided by benefiting only students or only the community

(Adopted from Eyler & Giles, 1999)

Last Updated: 7/2/15