Definition of Service Learning

The University of the Free State defines community service learning (or: ‘service-learning’) as follows:

An educational approach involving curriculum-based, credit-bearing learning experiences in which students –

(a) participate in contextualised, well-structured, and organised service activities aimed at addressing identified service needs in a community; and

(b) reflect on the service experiences in order to gain a deeper understanding of the linkage between curriculum content and community dynamics, as well as to achieve personal growth and a sense of social responsibility.

It requires a collaborative partnership context that enhances mutual, reciprocal teaching and learning among all members of the partnership (lecturers and students, members of the communities, and representatives of the service sector) (Engaged Scholarship Policy 2020).

What are the benefits of Service Learning?

Service learning provides a point of entry for sustainable community engagement by actively involving higher education staff, students, and a large variety of stakeholders in society. Over time, a considerable number of staff members have become convinced that it can contribute to the transformation of the institution by allowing the UFS to participate more effectively in the production of knowledge aimed at "addressing and conquering the most serious challenges of our immediate environs", as stated by a former Chancellor, Prof Khotso Mokhele, in his inaugural speech.

The inclusion of compulsory community service-learning modules in all academic programmes (at least one per programme) is a policy priority. Specific reference is made to the proven record of service learning as an educational approach that leads students – through structured critical reflection – to a deeper understanding of the linkage between curriculum content and community dynamics, as well as the achievement of personal growth and a sense of social responsibility.

Who is involved?

The policy also proposes that service learning, like all other forms of community engagement, requires a context of continuously negotiated, respectful, and ethical collaborative partnerships that involve, inter alia, community-based non-profit organisations, schools, and participants from local and provincial government. Stakeholders from business and industry are involved in terms of their corporate social responsibility focus.


For more information, contact:
Karen Venter
T: +27 51 401 3732
C: +27 83 310 3715


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