Service learning: a method for providing service along with learning in community based education

P Khorasani, M Jowzi


Introduction: A new interest has grown in a different form of learning called "service learning". American College of Nursing (1998) has advised some competencies such as critical thinking, communication, assessment and technical skills to prepare nursing students for their roles. "Service learning" as a participatory learning experience develops these skills in an actual community based environment while it also provides service to individuals, groups and the community as clients.

Methods: This review article provides the most recent literatures in "service learning", gathered by advanced search of manual and digital library and reviewing 250 references. The topics discussed in this article include "service learning", history and its definition, principles, types and benefits.

Results: "Service learning" as a new educational method, has a long history, about one century, and now is used by medical and allied health academics to train health care professionals, specially in developed countries. It is different from traditional classic clinical field educational methods because it emphasizes on needs and benefits of an actual clients (persons, groups or community) versus focusing only on students' academic and career learning. Five principles should be applied for true "service learning" experience, including placement quality, application between classroom and community, reflection, diversity and listening to community voice. Four types of "service learning" programs depending on either priority of learning or service or both with or without formal planning are applied in voluntary or involuntary courses. "Service learning" has many benefits for both students and community. Some of the educational benefits are mentioned above in introduction. The others include making a change in students' behavior and attitude and enhancement of student's ability in interpersonal relationships, therapeutic communications, leadership and group dynamic skills and flexibility of learning process as well as applications in community regarding the actual needs and demands. It also develops moral values and skills such as self-awareness, self-confidence, sense of democratic civic responsibility, global ecological and social awareness, cultural competence and social justice that are parts of students' life experiences.

Conclusion: "Service learning" provides invaluable contribution to the education of health allied students by allowing them to contribute to the community while simultaneously optimizing their professional preparations. It is beneficial for both students and the community, if its principles are considered. According to these benefits, faculties may acknowledge and utilize "service learning" as course planning to provide services to underserved population through performing clinical and field rotations of students in health care settings in the community based learning programs under the supervision of expert educators.


Educational methods, community based nursing, community oriented services, academic education.


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