Frequently Asked Questions    

  1. What is Service-Learning?
  2. How widespread is the use of service-learning in college classrooms?
  3. Who benefits from service-learning?
  4. How does service-learning affect student learning?
  5. What is the Clemson University Service Alliance?
  6. Why service-learning at Clemson University?
  7. How can I as a faculty member find time for service-learning with the demands to do research?
  8. Is there funding to support service-learning projects?
  9. How can I learn more about service-learning?

1.  What is Service-Learning?
Clemson is considered a  student engagement activity at Clemson. The following definition has been approved by the Academic Council:Service- Learning at Clemson University is experiential education in which community service experiences complement academic course material. It allows both instructors and students to apply their acquired knowledge and skills in a public setting by performing tasks with or for a community or a specific public organization. These tasks include but are not limited to identifying and analyzing real community needs and developing and implementing solutions to meet those needs. The process is accompanied by reflection activities over the course of the class or project
2. How widespread is the use of service-learning in college classrooms?
In its 2012 publication on community engagement Campus Compact reported that 95% of the campuses responding to their survey were involved in some form of community engagement. Of the campuses responding to the Campus Compact  Community Engagement survey in 2012:

    • An average of 44% of students participated in some form of community engagement
    • 7% of faculty teach a service-learning course
    • An average of 66 service-learning courses are offered
Clemson statistics for service-learning in 2012 were as follows:

Unique service-learning courses offered: 82
Unique service-learning courses represent about 2% of the courses offered.

Faculty reported to teach at least one service-learning course for 2012-2013: 138
Faculty teaching a service-learning course represent about 6% of the total faculty

While the total number of tenure-track faculty reporting that they taught  at least one service-learning course declined in 2012-2013, the number of Associate Professors, Lecturers, and Graduate Assistants teaching at least one service-learning course actually increased slightly over the previous year.

Unique headcount of students participating in a service-learning course: 3,284
This represents approximately 16% of the total student headcount for 2012
3.  Who benefits from service-learning?
Service-learning is mutually beneficial to both the participating students and the community. Students not only gain opportunities to practice skills, but also to test, refine and generate theory through systematic reflection. The community benefits when students are engaged in service activities that meet real community needs. Faculty benefit by having an opportunity to integrate teaching, research and service. In fact, many Clemson faculty have developed service-learning across many areas of the curriculum, affording students who desire to be engaged citizens and public stewards the opportunity to serve as they learn their chosen field of study. Clemson faculty are often recognized for their work in service-learning and civic engagement.
4.  How does service-learning affect student learning?
In the report “How Service-Learning Affects Students” (Astin, A.W., Vogelgesang, L.J., Ikeda, E.K., and Yee, J.A., Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA, 2000), researchers sought to determine the effects of service-learning and community service on college undergraduates and how learning was impacted by the service experience. Longitudinal data was collected from 22, 236 college undergraduates attending a national sample of colleges and universities. Some of the principal findings related to the impact of service-learning on the student academic experience were:

    • Participation in a service-learning course demonstrated a significant positive impact on academic performance (GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills), values (commitment to activism and promoting racial understanding), career choice in a public service field and plans to continue service participation after college. The impact of service-learning courses was strongest for academic performance, particularly writing skills.
    • Better than four out of five students participating in service-learning courses stated that they were learning from their service activity and felt they were making a difference in the community.
    • Qualitative findings from the study found that both faculty and students participating in service-learning courses felt that they had developed an increased awareness of civic responsibility and a sense of self-efficacy.
    • Student interest in the field of study or subject matter was the single most important factor connected with a positive experience in a service-learning course. Interest in the subject matter was particularly relevant as it related to how the service experience improved the student's understanding of the academic course material. This provides persuasive evidence to support the idea that service-learning courses should be included in a student's area of major study.
“Although we were providing a service to the children, they, in turn, provided a very profound service to me…. I never realized how much I could learn from a young group of children… I learned what it feels like to make a difference in a child's life… I now realize the importance of the profession I am entering into.” ~ Clemson Horticulture student
5.  What is the Clemson University Service Alliance?
The purpose of the Alliance is to provide a base of support and faculty network for teaching, research  and service activities in service-learning. The five colleges, the Provost's office, Economic Development Public Service Activities, Civic Engagement in the division of Student Affairs, the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation all provide leadership for the Alliance. The Alliance facilitates training opportunities and provides resources for faculty in service-learning methodology, promotes service-learning and community service activities on campus and assists with funding for service-learning activities.
6.  Why service-learning at Clemson University?
Clemson University was founded with a mission to be a “high seminary of learning” dedicated to teaching, research and service. Nearly 120 years later, these three concepts remain at the heart of the University and provide the framework for an exceptional and integrated learning experience for many Clemson students. In the University's mission statement, it states:

“In all areas, the goal is to develop students' communication and critical-thinking skills, ethical judgment, global awareness, and scientific and technological knowledge. Students remain the primary focus of the University.”

With this in mind, Clemson University seeks to foster and promote pedagogical tools such as service learning that have demonstrated the capacity to enhance student communication and problem-solving skills as well as increase their awareness of the world and communities in which we live. Clemson's includes student engagement and service-learning in its' 2020 plan, with a strategy to double the number of students participating in service-learning, creative inquiry and study abroad.
7.  How can I as a faculty member find time for service-learning with the demands to do research?
Service-learning activities can benefit your research initiatives as well as local communities and your students. It usually begins by finding a match between your interests, a community need and course content. Students can assist with needs assessment or data collection as part of a service- learning project. By including students in the process, you offer them the opportunity to learn about research procedures. Clemson Nursing Professor  Roxanne Amerson  involved her Nursing 415  students in an international service-learning project working with a local village in Guatemala and has published a number of scholarly articles on the project and has also received research funding from NIH to assist with the project. Dr. Amerson is just one example of a Clemson faculty member who is integrating teaching, research,and service to effectively engage her students and promote her professional career as a faculty member.
8.  Is there funding to support service-learning projects?
Clemson faculty are finding a variety of funding sources to support service-learning. From University grants such as Creative Inquiry, Service-Learning Course Development grants or national foundations like the WK Kellogg Foundation to federal funds from the Corporation for National Service, service-learning has generated substantial support. A number of faculty have partnered with faculty at other higher education institutions and have also created interdisciplinary service learning projects that have been attractive to outside funders. The Alliance will continue to work with faculty to seek outside funds to advance the development of service-learning at Clemson.
9. How can I learn more about service-learning?
The Service-Learning Alliance has a collection of publications about service-learning and experiential education, including research and ideas for implementing projects.  Workshops and webinars about service learning for faculty and students are held throughout the year, so please access this website for up-to-date information.