What is Service Learning?
Service Learning is a method of teaching and learning that enriches your academic life and life-long learning by engaging you in meaningful hands-on service to the community while gaining valuable knowledge and skills that integrate with course objectives. Service-Learning focuses on critical reflective thinking and experiential learning that address local needs and foster civic responsibility. (Service-Learning Guide and Journal: Higher Education Edition, 2004 Robert Schoenfeld)

What are the course objectives that Service Learning addresses?
These will vary, depending upon the course and the academic discipline. However, there are some objectives that are met for all courses and disciplines. Students will:

  • identify and explain how this service-learning volunteer experience helps them better understand the learning objectives of the course.
  • identify and address genuine community needs.
  • provide direct, indirect, and/or advocacy service to community agencies/organizations
  • personally experience civic involvement and reflect on the impact their service had on the agency/organization, as well as how their service impacted them.

How many hours will be required to complete my Service Learning?
This varies, depending upon the course instructor. Most courses at Kirkwood require approximately 20 hours.

How will I choose where to do my Service Learning?
You will either be given a list of agencies to choose from, or the instructor will choose a site(s) to which all students in the class will be assigned. You will then sign-up for your choice (if applicable).

How will I notify the agency/organization?
Once you have chosen an agency/organization, the service-learning coordinator will contact the agency/organization contact to give him/her a “heads-up” that you will be contacting the agency/organization to begin the service-learning assignment.

Is there anything else I am responsible for doing to get started?
You may have additional forms to complete, such as the Assumption of Risk and Disclosure. The agency/organization may also have paperwork that is required for volunteers at that site.

Can I do my Service Learning with an agency that is not listed?
You may make contact with the agency you prefer. If they are willing to offer you a Service Learning placement, contact Kirkwood’s Service Learning staff. Make sure you are prepared to give them the name of the agency, a contact person and the phone number. The staff will then make the appropriate contact with the agency.

I presently work for an agency, may I do my Service Learning there?
You need to discuss this with your instructor. If your service assignment is something different than you get paid to do there is a chance of it working out.

I’m having difficulty making contact with my assigned agency. What should I do?
Keep trying. Leave messages and return messages. You can be specific with your messages (i.e.: I’m calling in regards to a Kirkwood Service Learning placement, I can be reached at this number from 1-3 p.m.). When you chose to call the agency back later, be sure to ask when is a good time to reach the individual you are calling. These agency folks are extremely busy people and so are you! Be persistent. If you are nearing the date to be doing your placement and have been unable to make contact with your agency contact the Service Learning staff. It may be necessary to make an alternative assignment.

This placement is not working for me. What should I do?
It is possible that scheduling conflicts, a misunderstanding of responsibilities or a personality clash can make a placement inappropriate. We need to take care of any of those possibilities as soon as they come up. Contact the Service Learning staff immediately so we can take care of the situation. It may require a new placement.

I’m having difficulty doing the required hours. What should I do?
The first question to explore here is “why.” Is it transportation, day care, work schedule or any of the many priorities claiming student time. After answering the “why” question, think how you might remedy the situation. The Service Learning requirement of 20 hours is set in the best interest of the student’s ability to learn what an agency is about and the agency’s need for the student’s service and input. Like any other large assignment for a college-level course, we suggest you make your service a priority. Like any big assignment, saying it is impossible to complete under any circumstances will not be acceptable. Talk to your instructor and the Service Learning staff. We do have some placements that will allow students to complete their service in a weekend or two.

I don't get it, why do we have to do this thing?
Service learning is an opportunity for you to learn about the real world and how it applies to what you are learning. Have you ever used that classic academic whine- what does this book have to do with the real world? Service Learning is your chance to make that connection. It also gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the welfare of your community.

What happens at the agency/organization site when I volunteer?
The procedures and volunteer processes will vary from site to site, because each agency/organization has its own rules and regulations. Some type of orientation is usually required. This will be provided by a staff person(s), usually on site. You may count all orientation time towards your required Service Learning hours for the course. At the time of the orientation, you will be informed as to: confidentiality, appropriate dress, appropriate demeanor, how to sign-in, how to keep track of volunteer hours, duties and responsibilities, and who will supervise you. You will establish a schedule with your supervisor – days and times you will volunteer at the agency/organization.

Your instructor will provide you with a time sheet and log; however, the agency/organization may also have a sign-in sheet or other tracking mechanism for its volunteers that you will also use.

You will be expected to follow the instructions and directions given to you by your agency/organization supervisor to complete your volunteer tasks. If you are unsure about what to do or how to do it, ask your supervisor! No task is too menial; even though something you are asked to do may seem insignificant, or doesn’t require much expertise, it is a task that needs doing in order for the agency/organization to provide needed services to the community.

Attendance is very important. If you must miss, call the agency/organization in advance. It is your responsibility to make arrangements for any make-up time necessary. Appropriate dress and hygiene are also very important. You are presenting yourself as a professional, as well as a representative of Kirkwood Community College.

How will I be evaluated for service-learning?
You will be evaluated by both the agency/organization supervisor and by your course instructor. The site supervisor will be given an evaluation rubric, on which various aspects of your performance will be rated. Your instructor will assign various assignment(s), written and/or oral, that will address the relationship between your service-learning activity and the course learning objectives.

What should I do if I have a question, concern or problem at my site?
You should feel comfortable asking your site supervisor any questions concerning your duties, how to perform them and the expectations the supervisor has in regards to your performance. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns or problems you are having with your site supervisor. If you feel uncomfortable asking the supervisor, share your problems, questions, and/or concerns with your course instructor.

Agency Responsibilities

What happens at the agency/organization site when the student volunteers?
The procedures and volunteer processes will vary from site to site, because each agency/organization has its own rules and regulations. The following are recommended to ensure the most productive and meaningful experiences for both the Kirkwood students and the community agencies:

  • Complete the confirmation form that the student will bring to the agency contact/supervisor. The agency will retain one copy of this form.
  • Establish a schedule with the volunteer – days and times the student will volunteer at the agency/organization.

The following information MUST be completed on the agreement form:

  • days/times student will volunteer at the agency.
  • duties and responsibilities (be as specific as possible) of the student.
  • name of the on-site agency supervisor/evaluator. As much as is possible at the agency, designate one person who will be responsible for supervising and evaluating the student. This provides for continuity and consistency for both the student and the agency.
  • The agency may specify any duties/tasks it deems necessary in order for the agency/organization to provide needed services to the community; no task is too menial. However, it is important for the agency to take into account when assigning duties, the age, education level and experience level of the student. A student should never be in a situation in which he/she is directly responsible, without agency supervision, for oversight of clients or services.
  • Provide an orientation for the student volunteer(s). Research and past-practice verify that a thorough and timely introduction to the agency is vital for a successful Service Learning experience for both the student and the agency. This orientation should introduce students to the site, personnel, and rules and regulations of the agency. If a background check or other paperwork is required, it will be completed at this time. Some possible topics for inclusion in an orientation are: confidentiality, appropriate dress, appropriate hygiene appropriate demeanor (how to interact with staff and clients), how to sign-in, how to keep track of volunteer hours (a yellow contact log will be provided), duties and responsibilities, who will supervise and evaluate the students, and who/how to contact at the agency if there is a question, concern or problem.
  • The agency supervisor will be responsible for evaluating the student. This will occur twice in the semester:

1) Approximately midway through the semester (midterm), the Kirkwood Service Learning coordinator will contact the agency supervisor to informally check on the progress of the student.

2) When the student completes his/her volunteer hours, the agency supervisor will be given an evaluation form created by the student’s instructor (one-page rubric). The supervisor will evaluate various aspects of the student’s performance. The agency evaluation is a key component of the student’s overall evaluation for the service-learning assignment. The agency supervisor will return the evaluation form to the Kirkwood instructor, either by giving it to the student directly, or mailing to the instructor in the self-addressed, stamped envelope provided.