Five Criteria for SL Courses

Five Criteria for Service-Learning Designation for Courses across the Disciplines:

The course curriculum and pedagogical approach honor the following components:

Academic Connection:

Community engagement is related to curriculum and fully integrated into course goals, student learning outcomes. Participation is required.

  • The community-engagement component of the course is directly linked to the academic goals of the course; each informs and transforms the other.
  • Goals of the community engagement component are clearly articulated in terms of the broader course goals/outcomes.

Community Voice and Quality Service:

Community engagement activities address community identified issues as well as meeting course objectives. This includes determining a time-frame, required skill-set for students, training requirements, etc.

  • The community engagement component responds to the issues of the community as defined by the community.
  • Goals are developed in the context of community issues, but with a focus on the assets/capacities of all partners (students, community partners, faculty members, etc).
  • Students are prepared for entrance into the community through an introduction to the agency / issue and appropriate training.


Underlying understanding that every individual, organization, and entity involved in the service-learning functions as a both teacher and a learner.

  • Partners in the process develop a shared vision and joint strategies.
  • Partners learn from and teach each other on an on-going basis.

Critical Reflection:

“Critical reflection is the process of analyzing, reconsidering, and questioning one’s experiences within a broad context of issues and content knowledge” (Jacoby, Service-Learning Essentials, 2014). Critical reflection leads to critical analysis which includes an understanding of root causes and the larger contexts and structures which impact communities. To generate intentional learning from experience, students must engage in critical analysis (e.g., class exercises/discussion, written/guided reflection, video, etc). Reflective assignments and activities should link examination of the experience to course objectives, professional and personal development, and the Principles of Undergraduate Learning (PULs). Instructors should not only integrate the critical analysis of experience (reflection) into the course structure but they will also evaluate reflective assignments. Reflection should be continuous, connected, challenging, and contextualized (see 4 C's of Reflection) and intentionally prompt students to make linkages between intellectual skills and knowledge and lived experience. Instructors can map their reflection assignments and activities to any or all of the following domains of learning:

  • Personal growth
  • Academic and professional development, including the Principles of Undergraduate Learning (PULs)
  • Concepts of civic engagement and responsibility


A method/tool embedded in the program and individual courses for understanding effectiveness of community engagement for all participants: faculty, students, and community partners and community residents.

  • Evaluation seeks to measure the progress towards and outcomes of learning goals and community impact.
  • Assignment/student artifact that demonstrates that student civic learning per the SL CLOs.