Faculty » Frequently Asked Questions


What is service-learning?

Service-learning is a holistic pedagogy that integrates meaningful community service, community engagement, or civic engagement into academic course objectives through experiential learning and critical reflection to enrich the educational experience of students, teach civic responsibility, and meet the needs of a community.


My students give service in my class. Is it service-learning?

Maybe. The CCEL staff is happy to discuss whether your class meets the requirements for service-learning. We can also assist you in course design and the incorporation of best practices.


How is service-learning different from community service and internships?

The primary beneficiary of community service is the recipient of the service; the primary beneficiary of an internship is most often the student, who gets hands-on experience, but there are service-learning elements which can be developed here. In service-learning, both student and community benefit; a student learns in a hands-on model while providing a service that benefits the common good.


What is the advantage of taking (or teaching) a service-learning course?

Studies indicate that students forget half of what they learn passively, but they remember 90% when they DO the "real thing." Astin’s study from the Higher Education Research Institute indicates that service participation shows significant positive effects on all its outcome measurements, including: GPA, writing skills, critical thinking, values, self-efficacy, and leadership.


How does service-learning fit into Mississippi State University’s State of Excellence 2012-2017?

Service-learning aligns with MSU’s State of Excellence strategic planning goals as there are opportunities to address ways to: a) Foster Teaching and Learning (Priority One); b) Promote Research and Creativity (Priorities One and Five); c) Expand Outreach and Engagement (Priorities One through Four); d) Encourage Globalization (Priorities One and Three); e) Enhance Institutional Culture and Environment (Priority One).


Is assistance available for faculty who choose to include service-learning activities in their classes?

Yes, CCEL can assist with everything from restructuring syllabi to selecting community partners. Depending on the coursework, there may also be funds available for travel and meals.


How are service-learning sites selected?

Faculty members ask CCEL staff to provide possible sites where service goals match academic course objectives. CCEL members consult with agencies, community organizations, and MSU Extension Centers and supply ideas for sites that provide the most appropriate match. Faculty members then choose the appropriate site considering safety, supervision, orientation, and evaluation for faculty, students, and community partners.


What kinds of service can students do?

The nature of the service varies with the discipline….from grant writing and tutoring in composition classes to designing and building playgrounds and special wheelchairs in engineering classes. The service may be in the form of a project such as a marketing plan for a non-profit agency in a business class or weekly mentoring at an agency or school. In all cases, the service is directly connected to academic learning goals and is designed to enhance learning by testing theory or developing skills.


How are students graded in a service-learning class?

It depends on the class and the instructor, but generally the amount of service is not the important part. Academic credit is awarded for the learning that comes from the experience. The learning may be measured by projects, papers, presentations, reflective journals, or other methods, and the course is structured so that students do different work, not more work.


How can students find out which classes offer service-learning?

For information about courses that incorporate service-learning or provide students with MSU's service-learning designation please contact the Center for Community-Engaged Learning at (662) 325-2370.


Why is there a hyphen in service-learning?

The hyphen emphasizes the reciprocal nature of service-learning. Both the community and the students benefit. The hyphen also represents reflection, which is the bridge between service and learning.