How do I prepare my students for Service Learning?

Community-based learning projects require that students engage in a more independent learning experience. In order to ensure the safety of our students, it's important to introduce them to working in the community. Many faculty will add this information into their syllabi so students have it as a reference. The information below offers practical guidelines for how to do just that.

Developing And Delivering Student Orientation

The Orientation Checklist (below) is a tool to help you properly prepare service-learning students for their community experience. This checklist, more than any other, can be easily adapted to each campus and each service-learning placement. The orientation should provide students with a clear understanding of the work they will be doing, the risks associated with that work, and how they should conduct themselves when they are working in the community as part of a class assignment. The information and specifics you need in order to put together a comprehensive student orientation will come from the conversations you have had with the community-based organization. You should also discuss what information each party will cover so that time is not spent duplicating efforts. All the responses to the questions in the Checklist for Community-Based Organization Visit will guide your orientation.

It is recommended that two orientations occur:

The First Orientation, prior to the first day of service, gives students information about the community-based organization and the nature of their service placements. This should take place on campus, either in class or in a required outside-of-class meeting.

The Second Orientation, presented by the community-based organization, should take place at the site where students will be working. This is the simplest, most effective way for students to become aware of emergency policies, accident procedures, and the rules and regulations of the site.

Since orientation addresses all the factors students should be made aware of before accepting the service-learning placements, all students should attend both orientations in order to be permitted to serve. While we don't want to 'scare' students out of participating, all parties are best protected if placement details are presented, any questions asked, and students sign an informed consent that ensures they are aware of the nature of their placement and agree to the terms. The informed consent policy is contained within the Learning Plan where it is most effectively used as both a learning tool and a risk management tool.