Frequently Asked Questions


Service-learning is a type of experiential education that combines and pursues both academic achievement and community service in a seamless weave, requiring the use of effective reflection exercises. The goal of service-learning, through linking academics to the community, is to develop the skills, sensitivities, and commitments necessary for effective citizenship in a democracy.

Discussion of key elements of this definition:

  • Service-learning is a type of experiential education that when done properly enhances student learning and teacher effectiveness. It should be evaluated alongside other teaching techniques such as lecture, discussion, reading assignments, exercises, use of PowerPoint presentations, use of various media, and the like. As with any pedagogical method, it fits some instructors' teaching styles better than others and some courses better than others, and should be used where appropriate.
  • Service-learning integrates academic achievement with community service. Both academic study and community service must be maintained in equal importance for service-learning efforts to be successful. The interests of the community must be served; students are not sent to placements merely for academic enhancement. The academic objectives of the course must also be enriched by the community service, otherwise the service-learning effort becomes irrelevant to the educational purposes of the course and may seem a disjointed, unrelated act of volunteerism, distracting to the course's educational purposes.
  • Service-learning requires effective reflection. This point relates closely to the integration of academic achievement and community service. Studies have shown that for the community service to be effectively woven into the course and made educationally relevant for students, reflection exercises must play an important role in any service-learning project. Studies have shown that the community service, without reflection, often seems to students to be added work, lacking any relevance to the course and, thus, lacking value. Service done in such a context runs the risk of actually creating a backlash and solidifying prejudices and poor citizenship attitudes and practices.
  • Service-learning has citizenship as its goal. There are many types of experiential education, each with its own learning objective in view. Service-learning is a type of experiential education that has citizenship as its goal. It seeks to contextualize academic subject matter within the greater society, highlighting for the students the role that the academic disciplines play in building a healthy community. Students should come away with a sense of connection with the democracy and with a greater commitment to serve the community through their careers and throughout their lives. Service-learning, then, recaptures in a focused way the civic purpose that Thomas Jefferson had envisioned for higher education.



  • Faculty identify courses for which a service component is appropriate and the kinds of service experiences relevant to the particular courses.
  • The CASL staff develops relationships with those kinds of service placements in the community. To meet the public affairs mission of Missouri State, those organizations and agencies designated as "Community Partners" are not-for-profit or governmental groups.
  • The CASL Office, with the Community Partners, monitor the students' service work and certify to the instructors that the minimum requirement (40 hours) has been completed (or not).
  • The faculty develop the kinds of assignments appropriate for evaluating the students' learning and issue the grade for the service component based on the student learning achieved through the integration of course work and service work.
  • Requirements vary slightly for Integrated Service-Learning (ISL) courses.



The Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) program enables a student to earn an additional credit in selected courses in exchange for the learning acquired by completing 40 hours of service that is relevant to course content and benefits an external government or non-profit agency. Each department that offers service-learning provides a 300 or 500 level one credit service-learning component course. A student who wants the service-learning option will simultaneously register for the SL designated course and the SL component course.

The service-learning credit is awarded for the demonstration of learning that results from the service rather than the service itself. A reflection component is key to the critical thinking that a student will engage in during the hands-on experience with the community partner.

  • This is a 1-credit course. It is in addition to the core course to which it is attached – a lab of sorts.
  • For example: If you are enrolled in ANT-280 for 3 credits, you may also enroll in ANT-309 for 1 credit (this is the 40 hour service-learning attachment). The service-learning component is optional.



A stand-alone ISL course has all of the aspects of experiential education, reflection, and assessment integrated into the substance of the course. The community service experiences of the students are not just a side bar, but are an integral part of the course.

By integrating 15 hours per student of Service-Learning into the course, the professor develops lectures and discussion topics that give students additional insight and understanding of the course content based on their experiences. ISL is conceptualized as a pedagogical model that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic course learning.

When service-learning is integrated into an academic course, the course credit is assigned for both the customary academic learning as well as for a minimum of 15 hours of work with a governmental or not-for-profit organization. The student's grade is for the quality of learning as identified through reflection mechanisms determined by the course instructor.