The Region 11 Service Learning Network of Los Angeles County defines service-learning as the following:
Although service learning is often defined as "learning by doing," it is actually much more.
According to the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, service learning is a method under which participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that:
Is conducted in and meets the needs of a community
Is coordinated with an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher education, or community service program, and with the community
Helps foster civic responsibility
Service-learning activities should also:
Be integrated into and enhance the academic curriculum of the students or the educational components of the community service program in which the participants are enrolled
Provide structured time for participants to reflect on the service experience
K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice
The K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice was recently developed through a series of "reactor panels" that were convened throughout the country. These panels were composed of young people, teachers, school and district administrators, community members, policy-makers, community-based program staff, and others interested in service learning. The following standards were identified as being most likely to ensure quality service-learning experiences for all participants:
Meaningful Service that actively engages participants in personally relevant service activities.
Link to Curriculum that intentionally uses service learning as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.
Reflection which incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one's relationship to society.
Diversity that promotes understanding and mutual respect among all participants.
Youth Voice that provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with guidance from adults.
Partnerships that are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address real community needs.
Progress Monitoring that engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.
Duration and Intensity sufficient enough to effectively address community need(s) and meet specified outcomes.