Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

High Impact Practices (HIPs)

Service Learning, Community-Based Learning

What is Service Learning?

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with course content and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach social and civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.


  • Rethink how they learn and why they value their education
  • Become involved in their communities
  • Become active rather than passive learners
  • Help identify and solve problems in their communities
  • Build closer connections between their campus and their communities
  • Learn about our increasingly varied and changing world
  • Understand people and cultures that are unique
  • Develop resourcefulness, a stronger inner self, and a clearer sense of personal identity


Service Learning Impact

SL Success rates by race/ethnicity:

  •     Black students +16% more likely to earn a C or better
  •     Hispanic students +3% more likely to earn a C or better
  •     White students +2% more likely to earn a C or better

Resources to Get You Started

Contact with your Service Learning idea, and check out the Service Learning website:

  • $400 faculty grant available

Please be sure to include the following statement with your course: 

"This section of  [ENG 122] is a PPSC endorsed service-learning class.  Students will spend a part of the course semester on a service-learning activity.  This activity will address a need in our community, support our course objectives, involve a connection between the campus and the world around it, challenge students to be civically engaged, and involve structured student reflection."

Key Components in a Service Learning Project:

  • a benefit to the community
  • curricular connections
  • a real world project

four stages of service learning three types of service actions




Service Learning Project Example

Announcement to Students about the Service Learning Project

Service learning activities are efforts which address a community need. You will use the knowledge you have learned in this course to complete a meaningful service-focused project which impacts a community.  The components will include a proposal, service work, and a final paper/presentation.

Types of Service Examples for Students

You may choose to do one of the following, as individuals, in pairs or in small groups:

1. Community Volunteerism – Students may choose to integrate classroom learning with experiential learning through involvement with human need at a community service agency. The service projects will require at least 2 hours of service (in person or virtual). The service-learning project will contribute real-life insight and experience to the issues discussed in the course.
2. Community Activism – Students may choose to write a letter stating and defending an action or policy position or raising awareness of a specific issue related to one or more of the social groups we have studied and to an appropriate audience (elected official, non-profit organization or other community leader/group).  You will send your letter to the appropriate person and also include a copy in your final project submission.
3.  Community Research -- Students may choose to conduct up-to-date and relevant research for a local non-profit or other formal social group/movement of your choice.  In this option, your proposal will need to include approval from a group representative regarding the aim and utility of your work as well as outlining all expectations and timelines.
4.  Community Awareness – Students may choose to create a visual display/story board/social media campaign promoting awareness of a social topic or the challenges faced by a particular group we have studied this semester.  In this option, in addition to creating the display, you will set it up and staff it in a public location for a minimum of two hours or leave it online for comments for a minimum of two days.  You will need to attach a picture or screenshots of your board/campaign in your final project submission.
5.  Come up with your own idea!  Be creative and consider ways you can use what you have learned this semester to promote positive change in your social world.  Talk with me and formalize your ideas in the formal proposal before proceeding


The Project Assignment Process and Deliverables

1. Listen to the Service-Learning Project info podcast
2. Review the Service Learning Ideas document

3. Complete the Service-Learning Student Planning Sheet

4. Propose your Service Learning Project

  • Each student will submit a 1 page (two paragraph) proposal outlining their plan for the service project. 
  • Students should be detailed and specific with regards to the requirements for the project as well as how they think it will relate to what we have learned in class.
  • Proposals may be submitted early for those wishing to start on the work early or spread it out over the course of the entire semester.



  • Students should wait to begin their service work until they have received feedback and approval on their proposal. 
  • Do the work you have proposed.
  • Reflect along the way: What course concepts am I using? What does this mean to me personally? What does it mean to the group I am serving? How do I know?



Service Learning paper/presentation:
This is your opportunity to reflect on your “real world” service experience using the course perspective, concepts, theories, and principles. This analysis helps students apply the concepts of their course to new and different situations and to develop higher levels of understanding of the concepts and theories. 

  • The paper should analyze (not just describe) your experience.

  • Describe your service- learning experience.  The first part is a rich description of an incident or event which the student has observed or experienced.

  • Place your experience in a broader context.  The second part is an analysis of the experience making specific references to concepts or theories taken from the text, readings or class discussions. You can discuss the course concepts you saw in action, the course concepts that help you to understand/explain your experience, and/or things you experienced that ran counter to course concepts. 

  • You don't have to discuss every course concept, just the ones most relevant to your experience. In fact, I prefer a few concepts and theories developed well (defined, illustrated with examples, and explained in terms of how your experience illustrates the concept) to a lot of concepts superficially treated. Your objective is to demonstrate your comprehension of course material.

  • Be sure to cite course material you use with appropriate documentation/formatting style. A works cited page in a format consistent with your parenthetical references should be included.

Get and Give feedback:

  • Post a copy of your final service learning project here and in the Assignment Dropbox.  You will review at least two of your peers' projects and provide substantive and helpful feedback regarding the overall project, how well it meet the requirements of the assignment or its impact on your peer or the community. 

  • Respond to at least two other students' responses and complete by the date specified in the schedule.  Don't forget that your initial response to the topic is due no later than 24 hours prior to that date.

Assessment of the Service Experience
Use the HIPs Rubric and Student Survey

Student Project Resources

Example Reflective Assignments

The two below documents include, 1) a Reflection Paper Prompts and Template which faculty can adapt for use when assigning reflective essays (Reflection being one of the key HIPs components), and 2) a Service Reflective Toolkit containing general info on the value of student Reflection as a pedagogical​ approach, additional tips and strategies for developing reflection-based assignments.

Service Reflection Toolkit
Reflection Paper Prompts and Template


Not sure where to start drafting your Service Learning assignment? Take a look at these example assignments.  

The Citizen Program provides  “Rules of the game” (local decision-making) and “Practical problem solving” curriculum.

About The Citizens Campaign Organization “We are a community of practical problem solvers made up of volunteer government law and policy experts, civic leaders, civic-minded business people, high school and college students, teachers, veterans, and service-driven church members, dedicated to empowering our fellow Americans through citizen leadership training and the exposure to community based public service options that offer citizens the opportunity to exercise leadership without having to run for public office."

Engaging Discussion Topics

Use the following questions to help your students think about their relationship to the community, its needs and priorities, and how they might make a difference through a Service Learning project:

  • What would you define as “your community”? Is it your school, your neighborhood, your city, your state? How would you describe it?
  • How do you feel about your connection to your community? Connected? Unconcerned? Useful? Ignored? Needed? Try to explain why you feel this way.
  • What makes you feel proud about your community? What are the benefits of being a part of your community? What are you doing to sustain/support/build these positive traits?
  • How do you think you will know when the community values your input? What are the ways you can share your opinions with the community? Where is your power?
  • What things about your community make you sad, disappointed, frustrated or even angry? How might your neighborhood, school or community be a better place? What could you do to make a difference?


INSTRUCTORS: You might want to use these questions as a guide to start discussion with your class about service. You could write and add discipline specific questions to the list to focus the conversation.


If students do not seem to have a clear vision of their place in community, try some of the following strategies to get them thinking about their potential power.

  • Work as a class to define what creates community. (where we work, play, travel, …) List what you appreciate about our community. What is working? Define concerns you have about our community. Talk about how we might effect change.
  • Have the students identify their own assets. What are you good at that you could share with the community? Tutoring? Construction skills? Automotive training? Reading to children? Landscaping? Fundraising? Health and Medicine? Seniors? Animal Rescue? Crisis Support? Etc.
  • Have students survey other students or community members. Have students read the local newspapers to foster an awareness of the concerns and successes of our community. (Report, Reflect, Action, Reflect again.)
  • Research via the databases a particular service organization and report on possible ways PPSC or individuals could get involved. (Red Cross, Care and Share, CASA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Fostering Hope, Marian House, Habitat for Humanity, etc) Go to our PPSC LibGuide for resources and help.
  • Encourage students to investigate the many service projects on PPSC. (Report, Reflect, Action, Reflect again.)
  • Share a time when you engaged in a service project. How did the experience affect your attitude or feelings toward service?
  • Ask students to research children who are food insecure when school is not in session.


Service Learning Projects

Below you will find both faculty and student perspectives on various Service Learning projects successfully implemented at PPSC. 

You can also listen to Katie Wheeler (Communications professor and Service Learning Faculty Specialist) discuss Service Learning at PPSC and recent student projects, including: partnering with the Boys and Girls club, working with the local homeless population, and even hosting a haunted house!


Faculty Perspectives

PPSC COM students have partnered with The Boys and Girls Club for more than two years, volunteering at the clubs and hosting events, like the Thanksgiving Dinner for Club students and parents. PPCC Service Learning, through a generous donation from El Pomar, has established an incentive scholarship for the Boys and Girls Club students to attend PPSC upon their graduation from high school.

Additionally, Wheeler’s Group Communication students created their own projects this fall in various contexts: one student served her own community by working with families returning from deployment, the second group worked with individuals in homeless situations, and the third volunteered to do the photography for the Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving event.

Katie Wheeler, Communications Professor

Gina Swanson, Sociology Professor

Students worked with the Ronald McDonald House and Lutheran Family Services' refugee assistance program. Students also wrote letters of advocacy--on veterans’ health care, proposed Medicaid funding cuts, and anti-fracking.  

Swanson: “I have literally been in tears this semester with the heart my students have put into their projects.  I think the fact that they pick an option that means something personally to them is so important. I can't tell you how many have told me the experience was life-changing or career-affirming for them.” The vast majority of students reported a change in their thinking and actions. Students were particularly pleased to apply the theories they were learning to real life.

Students worked with community partners to better understand how the Mill Street Neighborhood can build community, access resources, and address neighborhood issues.  The Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO), the City of Colorado Springs, the Independence Center, Springs Rescue Mission, and many other local organizations and stakeholders are involved in the Mill Street Study. The Mill Street neighborhood was identified decades ago as a neighborhood in need of resources. 

PPSC students took part in the exploration of need and opportunities for community building, looking specifically at Social, Political, Economic, Environmental, Cultural, and Historical factors (acronym “SPEECH”).  This multi-faceted lens provides students an understanding of geography, community, and diversity in a hands-on project the exists right in their back yard… a project that they we be able to watch unfold over the coming years! Students are asking how they can remain involved in the Mill Street Project. 

Amy Filipiak, Geography Professor

Cheryl Ray, English Professor

Students research socio-economic conditions of senior citizens in the United States. They are astonished to find out the isolation and poverty that many seniors live in. Then the students interview an elderly person and write the person’s biography. The students make meaningful connections with their partners through this process and develop compassion for another generation. All of the class compiles a book of these memoirs and deliver them to the seniors as a gift. This project is life altering for the students and seniors alike

Student Perspectives

"I never thought that I would be speaking with such powerful people in my community. I have always wanted to make an impact and this class gave me a pathway to do so. I also learned the best way to others is help is to help them understand/befriend themselves. Through those new relationships, I feel I am really making a difference. I never would have done this on my own. I now know so much more on a topic I love to babble about and I can spread these practices to others on a larger scale."  Service Learning Student

To read the full reflection, click the link below. 

"I chose to be part of ‘A Night of Music for Rebuilding Puerto Rico” because my stepfather is a Puerto Rican native. We rarely talk about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and I thought maybe this could be an opportunity to be educated on all of the struggles the island is still facing as well as provide me a chance to be able to talk about it with my family. I was involved in this program by donating and speaking at the event.

I took so much from this event. It was inspiring watching so many students speaking out about how they feel we should be helping Puerto Rico. It was refreshing to see that much drive at such a young age.

I would highly recommend this Service-Learning event to others. It opened up much-needed conversations about what’s going on outside of our community. Anyone willing to learn will learn something."

- Nayeli Salinas, PHI 111 Intro to Philosophy class spring 2018 semester

To read the full reflection, click the link below.

Below is a document which was included in a student's Service Learning final project.  



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by Dwan Petti                                                                               

HIPS has compiled an extensive list of community and volunteer partners which faculty can partner with in developing their Service Learning curriculum, and associated student projects. 

The below link will take you to a page with opportunities, as well as contact information for each, and the types of volunteer work they are in need of.

Click here to find volunteer opportunities and community partners.


Resources for Substantive Conversations

How Less-Advantaged Students Experience Service-Learning - Short article on the impact of Service Learning on students from traditionally underserved populations - with several suggestions for implementation into your pedagogy.

Teaching Tolerance - A thoughtful essay about the days after the election in classrooms.

PBS - A lesson plan about democracy and healing divisions

Newsela - A factual article about the election that can be changed for different reading levels in English and Spanish.

Election Processing Community Circle Activity - Helping students of all ages talk about the election.

How to lead thoughtful, constructive conversations:

  • Talk about issues and not personalities
  • Identify concerns
  • Process emotions
  • Process next steps

Supporting Research

There is much research showing that implementing a Service Learning component to classes benefits not just the students - but faculty and the larger institutional community as a whole. Below are some research highlights for your review:

HIPs Faculty Specialists are peer experts who are ready to assist fellow faculty to implement or improve high impact practices. 

Ruth Ann Larish 

NPS Faculty Specialist for Service Learning



Gina Swanson

Faculty Lead for Service Learning



Have general HIPs questions? Contact: 

Pikes Peak State College Libraries
Information ∞ Inquiry ∞ Learning