Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Max M. Fisher Online Institute

Service-Learning and the Quality Standards

The Five Stages of Service Learning

The Service-Learning strategy represents good teaching that guides students in investigating needs outside the classroom and taking steps to improve something outside themselves. When students see a purpose for their work and have a voice in how to exhibit their talents, they are more deeply engaged in learning and practice higher-level thinking skills.

Learn more about the process of service-learning in the following video. Learn and Serve America has chronicled students and communities impacted by quality service-learning experiences.


Learn and Serve Video


Watch this eight-minute video that clearly explains service-learning and its value to learning and student success.








"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." —John Dewey


Service-learning is a research-based, best-practice teaching strategy in which classroom learning is deepened through service to others. The structured process involves student decision-making in preparation for and implementation of meaningful experiences; provides time for reflection before, during, and after the action; and requires communication with respect that seeks to understand and value the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of those offering and receiving service.


The following five stages of service-learning provide this structure.



With guidance from their teacher, students:


  • explore their community and identify a need.
  • ask questions and conduct research.
  • collect data that becomes basis for later evaluation and results reporting.
  • interview community partners and identify community resources
  • identify their talents and interests that apply to the need.
  • activate prior knowledge.




With guidance from their teacher, students:


  • analyze the underlying problem and use teamwork along with skills and knowledge to make decisions.
  • collaborate with community partners and identify and analyze different points of view to gain understanding of multiple perspectives.
  • develop a plan that encourages responsibility and defines realistic parameters for implementation.




Through direct service, indirect service, research, or advocacy, students take action that:


  • has meaningful outcomes valued by those being served.
  • addresses issues that are personally relevant to the students.
  • uses previously learned and newly acquired academic skills and knowledge.
  • offers unique learning experiences and a safe environment to learn, to make mistakes, and to succeed.




The teacher (or student leader) guides the reflection process using various modalities, such as role-play, discussion, art and journal writing. Participating students:


  • reflect before, during, and after the service experience.
  • think deeply about issues, attitudes, and connections.
  • discuss thoughts and feelings and place experience in a larger context.
  • consider project improvements.
  • generate ideas and identify questions.
  • receive feedback.
  • evaluate the service-learning process.




After the service-learning experience, students:


  • present to a group that may include families, community partners, and other students.
  • describe what happened and examine the difference it made.
  • demonstrate skills used and learned during service experience.
  • demonstrate success using research and collected data.