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Center for Faculty Engagement (CFE): Service Learning

Teaching Excellence & Engagement

High-Impact Practices

High Impact Practices (HIPs) are instructional methods that improve outcomes for student success. The most common HIPs at Texas A&M University- Central Texas include writing instructive (WI) courses, service learning, undergraduate research, capstone courses, internships, and global learning/ study abroad.

For an overview of High-Impact Practices, check out this guide:

What is Service Learning

The following definition, criteria, and institutional outcomes were developed by an institutional task force.

Definition of Service-Learning

A course-based, credit-bearing, educational experience in which students learn to relate theory to practice by participating in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and then by reflecting upon the service activity in such ways as to meet instructional objectives, and gain a broader appreciation for the discipline and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

Criteria for Service-Learning Course Designation

Service-learning courses should meet the minimum criteria below:

  • Service or other engagement activity is integrated within the course content and supports its academic focus, with a minimum of 15 hours of community engagement by each student in the course.
  • Students are involved in the engagement of value to the community, as evidenced by collaboration with the community itself.
  • Structured opportunities for guided reflection occur at multiple points in the course.
  • Clear demonstration of service-learning learning outcomes and their assessment are included in the syllabus.
  • The course does not require a student to participate in an activity or project that creates a religious or political conflict for the student.

Institutional Learning Outcomes of Service-Learning

In addition to discipline-specific learning outcomes, Service-Learning courses should include institutional learning outcomes that are consistent across the university.

  • Analysis of knowledge: Connects and extends knowledge (facts, theories, etc.) from one's academic study/field/discipline to civic engagement and one's participation in civic life, politics, and government. (AAC&U, 2011)
  • Diversity of communities and cultures: Reflects on how own attitudes and beliefs are different from those of other cultures and communities. Exhibits curiosity about what can be learned from the diversity of communities and cultures. (AAC&U, 2011)
  • Civic action and reflection: Demonstrates independent experience and shows initiative in team leadership of complex or multiple civic engagement activities, accompanied by reflective insights or analysis about the aims and accomplishments of one’s actions.(AAC&U, 2011)
  • Civic contexts/structures: Demonstrates ability and commitment to collaboratively work across and within community contexts and structures to achieve a civic aim. (AAC&U, 2011)

Scholarly Literature

There is a large amount of scholarly literature on service learning. The University Library holds many helpful resources, such as those accessible through the e-reserve below.  

Service-learning e-reserve:

How do I find a Community Partner?

Identifying an appropriate community partner (or simply the type of community partner) is one of the most important aspects of developing a successful service-learning course.  There are several established community organizations that have experience working with faculty in multiple departments, such as the Killeen Community Clinic, Peaceable Kingdom, and the Boys and Girls Club.    

Please message Jason Douglas, at for assistance in identifying potential community partnerships.  

Course Designations

Are you thinking about offering a service-learning course?   If so, you may want to consider having your course officially approved as a University Service-Learning Course (SL).  While this designation is optional, it helps the institution recognize service-learning courses that meet institutional standards for quality.  In addition, faculty members are encouraged to use the designation as evidence of teaching excellence in promotion and tenure applications. 

Courses are designated on a semester-by-semester basis unless a department or college has elected to place a continuous "SL" designation on the course.  The application is concise and ensures the institutional criteria for the methodology are met.  Applications open at least a month prior to review by Service-Learning Advisory Board which occurs in December (spring courses) and May (summer and fall courses). 

Service Learning Fellows

The fellows program provides an intentional professional development opportunity for faculty members interested in service learning. The practical and theoretical underpinnings of service learning are emphasized through three workshops during the fall. Faculty members then apply these principles by teaching a service-learning course of their design in the spring semester. Three spring discussions provide structured support for troubleshooting challenges and ensuring quality. Benefits include a stipend, a course release (unless prohibited by the department or college), recognition by university leadership, and evidence of teaching excellence to support promotion and tenure applications.  Applications for the program are typically opened in March and close in April prior to beginning the following September.  

Contact Dr. Morgan Lewing, Director of Community-Based Learning for more information (

The American Democracy Project (ADP) is a network of more than 250 state colleges and universities focused on public higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy. The ADP was established in 2003 with the goal of producing college and university graduates who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and experiences they need to be informed, engaged members of their communities.