Service-Learning Models at Durham Tech

Option 1: Semester of service

  • Coordinated by Student Enrichment.

  • Students select from scheduled on- and off-campus events.

  • More than 30 service events each semester.

Option 2: Single class project

  • Instructor-coordinated.

  • Single project.

  • Service-Learning director can assist with designing this course-specific project, providing student orientations, and tracking paperwork.

Option 3: Multiple student projects

  • Student-coordinated.

  • Multiple projects.

  • Service-Learning director can assist by providing service ideas, providing student orientation, and tracking paperwork.

Examples of Service-Learning Models

Option 1: Semester of service

  • Example: An ENG 111 instructor provides the option for students to complete 10 hours of service from any of the prescheduled events to inform an upcoming essay. The instructor provides the Semester of Service schedule to students, and they sign up for 10 hours of service on their own, complete the hours, and complete the required paperwork. Students participating in this service-learning option incorporate their service reflections into their essays and need only two academic sources for their annotated bibliographies and final essay instead of the five required for the traditional assignment.

Option 2: Single class project

  • Example: A SPA 112 instructor works with the Service-Learning director to establish service opportunities with a local Latino/Hispanic community organization. Students who assist with ESL classes or at the front desk may write a reflection on their service work as it relates to course outcomes in lieu of their final oral exam. After the initial set-up by the instructor, students sign up for service on their own, complete the hours, and complete the required paperwork.

Option 3: Multiple student projects

  • Example: A SOC 210 instructor allows students to use service-learning experiences as sources for their final essay on a social problem. Students locate and get approval for a service project that relates to their specific paper topics. Students get approval from the instructor and Service-Learning director, set up the service on their own, complete the service, and complete the required paperwork. Students using service-learning keep a journal of their experiences that's graded in lieu of an annotated bibliography.

Getting Started with Service-learning

The Semester of Service (Option 1) is the preferred model of service-learning for instructors implementing this teaching and learning method for the first time. Since the service opportunities are already scheduled, instructors and students can focus on the learning outcomes of the experience rather than the logistics of establishing a potential service project. Instructors can limit students to Semester of Service opportunities that best correspond to their intended learning outcomes. For example, an Environmental Biology instructor may limit students to just the community garden workdays, not allowing students to count the food pantry shifts or other Semester of Service opportunities toward their service-learning projects.

Here are some important reminders about utilizing Option 1: Semester of Service.

Requires 10 hours of service

  • Minimum for three-hour course.

  • Completed outside of class.

Students select from scheduled events

  • More than 30 on-and off-campus events each semester.

Requires a culminating project

  • Students reflect on service, connecting experiential learning to academic principles or topics.

  • Project examples: presentations, posters, journals, or essays.

Offered as an alternative

  • Offered as an option for a major assignment.

  • Students receive a grade for the culminating project (not the service) that's weighted the same as the original assignment.


What types of service qualify as service-learning?

Your students’ service-learning projects may fall into any of these three categories:

  1. Direct service -- Students usually interact face-to-face with service recipients or organizations. Examples include tutoring, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, or building raised garden beds for an elderly community center. Direct service is what most people think of when they hear the word “volunteer.”

  2. Indirect service -- Students work behind the scenes to help alleviate a social problem, usually without direct contact with service recipients. Collecting food for a local pantry, organizing a fundraiser, and creating a curriculum for a résumé writing workshop would all be considered indirect service.

  3. Advocacy -- Students educate others about an issue of public interest to increase awareness and, ultimately, action on the topic. Advocacy work could include providing nonpartisan voter information, organizing a letter-writing campaign to legislators and media groups, or creating posters that educate the public on a topic.

What is reflection? How is it done?

  • Reflection is said to be the hyphen in service-learning, linking the service work to the learning objectives.

  • Reflection is the intentional consideration of the service experience in light of particular learning objectives.

  • Reflection is a requirement for all service-learning projects, as this is when students move beyond considering what happened, to examining why it happened and its implications. In other words, this is where critical thinking and evaluation of the service and course content occur.

  • Reflection options include:

    • Journaling (a common form of reflection)

    • Online discussion board

    • Group project

    • Presentation to the community

    • Written deliverable that will assist the nonprofit

    • A series of class discussions

    • Q&A worksheet

    • Report

    • Paper that requires the student to examine principles from the class and compare the theory to what was learned in practice

    • Service journal

    • And many other options

  • The reflection may be incorporated into other larger assignments, but the reflection itself should not constitute more than 30 percent of the student’s overall grade for a course

How can the Service-Learning director assist me?

  • Writing a syllabus statement regarding service-learning.

  • Designing the reflection activity.

  • Configuring a grading method or rubric for the service-learning project.

  • Locating service opportunities.

  • Providing a service-learning orientation for students.

  • Leading an in-class reflection of students’ service.

  • Providing a spreadsheet that tracks students’ paperwork and providing regular updates on students’ submissions.

Service-Learning examples


Students may tour a community garden as a class and then volunteer at the garden over the next couple of weeks on their own. Students then incorporate their experiences into presentations on natural resources, sustainability, plant cells, or photosynthesis.


Advanced accounting students may be trained in tax codes and participate in a local free tax preparation day. They then reflect in an essay on their expectations and experiences interacting with the public on accounting processes.


Students in a DRE 098 course with readings focused on hunger could volunteer in the food pantry, food bank, and/or community garden. After group discussion, the students create a poster connecting course readings to their service experiences or use their experiences to inform their essays on hunger.

Online resources

Process for faculty

  1. Complete the Intent to Offer Service-Learning Form and submit to the Service-Learning director by the following deadlines:

    • To offer a service-learning course in the fall semester: July 20

    • To offer a service-learning course in the spring semester: November 20

    • To offer a service-learning course in the summer semester: April 20

  2. Write service-learning into your syllabus and create your assignments.

  3. The Service-Learning director can assist you with syllabus language, reflection activities, determining deadlines, and questions you may have about the nuts and bolts of utilizing service-learning to meet learning objectives.

  4. Review the Semester of Service calendar and determine if all events will be eligible for the assignment.

  5. The calendar is finalized ahead of each semester.

  6. Schedule a service-learning orientation for your class with the Service-Learning director.

  7. During this 30-minute presentation, the Service-Learning director provides a brief description of service-learning, explains volunteering dos and don’ts, and begins paperwork with the students.

  8. Explain the service-learning option the first day of class and point it out in the syllabus.

  9. Inform students about the selected projects, assignments, and deadlines. A more detailed explanation may be offered later in the semester as the project nears.

  10. After students complete forms, collect them in class and pass them on to the Service-Learning director.

  11. A spreadsheet will be created for your course to track who has submitted the paperwork. Please see this semester’s Service-Learning Due Dates for when forms must be submitted by the instructor to the Service-Learning director.

  12. Consider conducting in-class reflection opportunities.

  13. Service-learning students can reflect on their real-world application of course topics, and students not participating in service-learning may learn from the experiences of those who do.

  14. Grade students’ assignments.

  15. Please pass exemplary work to the Service-Learning director or invite her to any in-class presentations you may be having on service-learning projects.

  16. Submit any remaining student paperwork.

  17. Submit the Passing Students Form.

  18. To receive the transcript notation, students must pass the project and the course. Use this form to note which students did pass so the Service-Learning director can ensure deserving students receive the transcript notation. These forms are due by the last day of the semester.