Pre-placement planning begins three months before the experience. Community service learning (CSL) program coordinators contact students to inform them of the CSL component and suggest how students can start preparing, e.g. obtaining a vulnerable sector check. Program coordinators review course content with faculty each term to make recommendations on relevant placements, roles, and community partners. During the first week of classes, students learn more about the CSL component and associated logistical items, like how to apply for a placement through the online program.
The experience involves hands-on interaction with the community organization hosting the placement and the population they serve. In many placements, students help to implement programming in not-for-profit organizations and schools.
Students are assessed through the reflection assignments. In many courses, the reflection is both oral and written in nature. The reflections are graded and students receive an evaluation from the placement supervisor. In addition, students complete an evaluation of the experience to help inform the work of the Experiential Learning office and map learning objectives to the placements.
The program supports and encourages the integration of continuous reflection throughout the semester, including pre-service reflection. Tutorial sessions around reflection are also facilitated in-person and online by CSL-specific teaching assistants.
Key success factors
The placement model is course-based and operates on a large scale for both in-person and online courses across multiple campuses.
Well-established relationships with community partners ensure there are enough placements for students. Community partners generally return to the program, with some relying on the program for their operations.
The CSL opportunities offer a broad range of possible experiences; many integrate students with populations and experiences in which they might not otherwise participate.
The program employs graduate student teaching assistants to facilitate reflection sessions that help to support different modes of reflection.
In some cases, students will stay on as volunteers with their placement organization.
Instructors teaching CSL courses for the first time are onboarded to develop their understanding of its nature and benefits. The process includes resources on how to integrate reflection into class sessions.
Students are encouraged to think of the placement as a weekly commitment rather than focusing on the total number of hours. They're also encouraged to make connections to their weekly course learning.
It's important to remain aware of the local capacity for service learning and the needs of participating community partners.
It takes time to ensure consistent, high-quality placements, and to find the right placement fit for students within organizations. All of these qualities are impacted by the placement role, placement supervisor, on-boarding and orientation, and supports available to students
It's critical to handle the risk management aspects of the placements, including reporting for unpaid placements and documentation required by the university’s legal department.
Community Service Learning at Wilfrid Laurier University
Student Success Stories
- Internship leads to meaningful work for Laurier alumna
- Laurier student Aditya Manipadavu completes the cycle through Nutrition for Learning
- Brittany goes beyond the books to help seniors stay independent
- Laurier and Young City Growers' micro urban farm provides much more than a food source
- Laurier alumna Becca Vandekemp McLellan (BA/BEd '12) is working to improve the lives of Brantford street youth
- Laurier student turns translator through community service-learning course
- Laurier students hit the ice with Community Service-Learning and SkateABLE
- New Community Outreach Council helps students give back to the community
- Laurier recognized with University Partner Award by Muslim Social Services