According to the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning, “service-learning is an educational approach that integrates service in the community with intentional learning activities. Within effective service-learning, members of both educational institutions and community organizations work together toward outcomes that are mutually beneficial.”
Service-learning strengthens students’ ability to connect academic learning and real-life experiences and societal issues, bolstering their confidence and skills to take on more complex leadership opportunities.
Service-learning is distinct from volunteerism and practicum: Volunteerism focuses on responding to the needs of community, and practicum emphasizes student learning. Service-learning strives to place equal focus on both.
Current and past research have found a wide range of benefits for participating in service-learning:
- Service-learners are more committed to their communities, demonstrate greater understanding of diversity, and devote more time to their academics. (Astin, Sax, & Avalos, 1999)
- Service-learning placements help teachers to understand how different groups of children perceive the world, and can help diffuse teachers' previously held beliefs and prejudices (Baldwin, Buchanan, & Rudisill, 2007)
- Service-learners report a stronger commitment to the teaching profession (Reynolds, 2003) and are more confident in their ability to make a difference in the communities they work in (Fenzel & Leary, 1997; Simon & Cleary, 2006).
- Through service-learning, teacher candidates have the opportunity to learn about themselves (McMahon, 1998), reflect on their development as educators (Reynolds), and consider new professional development opportunities (Gemmel & Clayton, 2009)
- Service-learning places academic concepts in a real-world context (Gemmel & Clayton)
- Students who participate in service programs demonstrate increased academic learning, writing skills, and elevated GPAs (Simon & Cleary; Vogelgsang & Astin, 2000).
Put simply, service-learning gives you real-world experience working with children and youth. You'll make a difference in students' lives and connect your service back to what you've learned in the program.
- Any student who completes at least 20 hours of service will receive credit on their CCR - your Co-Curricular Tracker - that you can show to employers after you graduate.
- Students who excel in their service-learning placements can receive letters of reference from the organizations where they volunteer. These can help strengthen your professional portfolio and speak to the impact you've made in the community.
- Your service placements will expand your professional network. You'll work closely with educators and community leaders who can help you find new opportunities after your service placement is over.
All of our service learning opportunities require a current police check (issued after July 1). If you are in a Non-Education year, you will need to apply for and receive a Police Information Check with Vulnerable Sector Screening from your local police department before the beginning of your service placement.
For the fall semester, the police check you received for your field placements can usually be used for your service placements. Simply bring a copy of your police check with you when you're on your service placements, the same way you do during your field experiences.
If your placement organization requires a separate record check, that information will be listed on the opportunity's information page.
If you are a Concurrent or Four-Year-B.Ed. student in a Non-Education year, you will need to apply for and receive a Police Information Check with Vulnerable Sector Screening from your local police department before the beginning of your service placement. Students in their non-education years will need to present their police check to the university and their partner organization before they can begin their service-learning placement.
If you're not from Calgary but you're already living here, the Calgary Police Service will still process a Police Information Check with Vulnerable Sector Screening for volunteer purposes (which includes service-learning). They will add a note recommending that you also request a police check from where you lived before you moved to Calgary. If you have any questions, please speak to your local police department for details.
A Child Intervention Check is a records check run by Alberta Human Services, and is separate from the Police Information Check that most of our partner organizations require.
Most students do NOT require a Child Intervention Check.
Some of the placements for EDUC 450: Diversity in Learning do require a Child Intervention Check. Since these placements begin in January, we will let you know during the fall semester if you will need to submit a Child Intervention Check.
Some placements in the Co-Curricular Service-Learning program also require a Child Intervention Check. Copies of the CIC request form are available for interested students. Contact Caitlin Kane, Experiential Learning Facilitator, at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Service-learning is an optional way of getting more experience working with children and youth to address community needs. The different opportunities all align with the BEd program, but they're not part of the program itself.
Field experience placements (or practicum) are a mandatory part of the teacher education program. Alberta Education mandates how many field experience days you need to complete. Service placements can't be used to replace these more formal teaching opportunities.
Service-learning is meant to expand on, not replace, the learning experiences you have in class or during field.
Many of the service opportunities are flexible and can be scheduled around your availability. We also have opportunities that run during school hours, after school, on weekends, and for shorter periods of time to make sure that there are service opportunities that will work with your schedule.
If you're not sure whether a service placement will conflict with your schedule, ask. We're happy to talk about what placements would work for your schedule.
All of the different service-learning opportunities are connected by a common goal of promoting meaningful educational opportunities for pre-service teachers in different community settings.
While every organization structures their service-learning opportunity differently, most placements are co-curricular placements. This means that your service placements are aligned with what you're doing in your courses, but your placements aren't directly connected to a course or attached to any evaluations.
If you're participating in the EDUC 450 service-learning program (Volunteering with Diverse Communities), your placement is slightly different, and is a curricular service-learning placement. Just like the co-curricular programs, your EDUC 450 service-learning placement will match with you with a community organization that aligns with what you're learning in the program. The main difference is that the placements for EDUC 450 are also aligned with the goals of EDUC 450. That is, all of these placements focus on Diversity in Learning and meeting the needs of diverse learners.