For Students: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Service Learning?

Service learning is a teaching method that combines community service with academic instruction as it focuses on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility. Service learning programs involve students in organized community work that addresses local needs, while developing their academic skills, sense of civic responsibility, and commitment to the community (adapted from Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges).

 Why do I have to do Service Learning?

Service-learning is a teaching method that your professor has chosen to help you grasp the concepts of your course. It is a way to involve you in the community surrounding Hawaii Pacific University, connect to coursework through "real-life" application, meet new people and grow your network, immerse yourself in a cultural experience where you can interact with diverse community members, and provide you with an opportunity to be socially responsible and an active citizen. Service learning is not an "additional" part of your course; it is an integral part of your coursework and should be treated as seriously as the readings you may be assigned.

What is the difference between volunteering and service learning?

Service learning is the intersection between classroom work and community work. The work you do in the community should help inform your learning in the classroom and you should take skills and ideas that you learn in the classroom with you as you work in the community. The learning is meaningful and deliberate through reflective thinking. Volunteering can be meaningful as well but is not usually connected to course material and can be more sporadic.

How do I find a service learning placement?

The best way to find a placement (if not assigned) is to attend the Volunteer/Resource Fair in order to make an initial connection with your community partner of choice. You can also find community partner information in the HPU service learning website. Make sure that the partner you choose is appropriate for your course. You should gather the best contact information and make sure to follow-up with the community partner early-on to cement your placement. Remember, you are not the only student trying to earn a spot at their organization and the longer you wait the less likely it will be that they will be able to accommodate you and your needs.

Do I need to fill out an application?

Some of our community partners require that an application be filled out. You should check if this is true for an organization you are interested in so you can complete the necessary forms. If there is an application process you should also be aware that there is a possibility that you will not be accepted. This may happen due to the high volume of requests, scheduling conflicts, or incompatibility with the skills needed or the organizational mission.

When should I have my service learning placement in place and when should I start?

You should aim to get your service learning placement set as soon as possible. Many students will by vying for the same placements. Also, some organizations require that you do an application and interview. If that is the case do not assume that you will be accepted. Usually your professor will also have a deadline for your selection and when you are expected to begin at your site.

How many hours are required for service learning?

You should refer to your syllabus to find out how many hours your professor requires for the course. Most courses require between 10-20 hours. If you decide to work with a community partner that requires a longer commitment you need to respect the community partner's time requirement and make sure you can commit for the time necessary.

Do I need to commit to a program for the whole semester and/or year?

You need to find out what the community partner requires and commit for that amount of time. Some of our partners have semester-long or year-long commitments because of the nature of the work they are doing and/or because they generate so much volunteer interest that they need to select the people whom they feel will be most willing to commit to the mission of their organization.

In pursuing a service learning placement, please remember that you will need to complete the hours required by the community partner even if this means committing beyond the number of hours required by the professor of your service learning course. We work hard to build relationships with our partners and if students don't follow through with their commitment it has the potential to taint the University's relationship with the partner.

What if I don't want to do service learning or don't have time in my schedule to complete the commitment?

Professors make sure to include the service-learning component in their syllabi so students know what to expect ahead of time. If you are not able to fulfill this requirement you should be sure to speak with the professor early on to decide if the class is a good fit for you. Remember, service learning is not an "add-on" and is normally part of your grade. If it is required in your course you should view it as required reading or writing a paper. It is an integral part of the course and the learning objectives defined by your professor.

If you have a tight schedule you should be sure to look for an appropriate placement early on to insure that space is available for popular choices.

Can I use the same service learning placement for all of my classes?

It depends on the course. Some courses have specific requirements and/or specific projects so it would not make sense to do the same placement for each of your courses. If you have multiple service learning courses you should make sure to check-in with your professors about their policy regarding "double-dipping."

How do I track my hours?

Your professor will probably have you fill out a time log where you can track your hours.

How do I get to my site?

You should make sure to ask your contact at your site about the best way to travel to your site before you go for the first time. It is also a good idea to look at the location on a map beforehand so you can be familiar with the surrounding streets. Good tools to use is for the trip planner and for an area map. If you are not familiar with the area you may want to travel with a fellow service-learner.

What does "reflection" mean?

Reflection is one of the most important components of service learning. It allows you to draw out the most meaningful and memorable aspects of your experience and connect them with your course work, as well as personal and civic discoveries. It is meant to give you an opportunity to do "reflective thinking" about your experiences. Some common methods of reflection include: class discussion, journals, presentations, reaction papers, integrative papers, and many courses have group reflection sessions. 

*Adapted from Simmons College