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Wrapping up Service-Learning with Success

As we head into finals many of us feel a sense of heaviness that goes beyond the normal spring semester exhaustion. Between the global pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, inflation, the price of gas, the cost of living, Global Warming, and finals it is no wonder we and our students are stressed.  So how can we help our students wrap up the semester and complete their service-learning/community engaged projects successfully? Below are ideas that came out of a CTL “Talking Teaching” conversation led by Service-Learning Faculty Associate, Elizabeth Barnes and Service-Learning Director Kara Brascia.

First – Acknowledge

First we need to acknowledge to students that this has been a difficult semester. Students are feeling the weight of the world while managing multiple layers of life expectations. This acknowledgement allows students to be seen in the present moment. It also helps us and our students to reframe what a successful Service-Learning project can look like. Acknowledging challenges also gives us a window to expand expectations beyond the expected academic learning and project completion; and to highlight and reflect on personal learning.

Hand writes in journal resting on table

But what should I do if my students’ non-completion will disappoint Community Partners?

If you have students underperforming for a community partner you might consider reaching out to the partners to recalibrate expectations. Projects may be able to be completed by a future class, and your current students could create a “handoff” document that better prepares future students to do the work.

Focus on Learning

Another strategy to use when students are struggling to complete their SL projects is to focus their attention on the learning rather than the doing. What have students learned from doing the experience? What might they learn from not completing the experience? You can also focus on their successes so far. Review your learning outcomes (civic learning outcomes as well as academic learning outcomes) and consider the ways students have already met these. Ask students to reflect on this with you.


And last but not least, celebrate the learning that has happened. Of the many things the pandemic has taught us resilience rises to the top of the list. We’ve all shown a great deal of capacity for change and flexibility. So let’s acknowledge and celebrate our students’ successes — and our successes– in all of their beautiful and varied forms.


For more resources please check out the Service-Learning Adaptations and Q&A for faculty teaching Service-Learning during the COVID pandemic.

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