Service learning is a transformative pedagogy that seeks to integrate meaningful community service with academic content and skills, combined with critical reflection on service learning experience (Cairn and Kielsmeier, 1999 cited in Karayan & Gathercoal, 2005, p.79). It has emerged as a key element in supporting students to become active citizens and in enhancing the practical application of their studies (National Service Learning Clearing House, 2011).
The distinction between service learning and volunteerism is one that is often blurred. Lemieux and Allen (2007) offer the following clarification:
Although all service learning occurs in a community context, not all community-based learning is service learning. Service learning, by definition, is a collaborative relationship between the community and the classroom that equally prioritises student learning and community service. Voluntary service also is distinguished from curriculum-based service learning in that the former emphasises service over learning. In summary, students . who volunteer in the community may be harvesting learning from the community, but they would not be engaged in academic service learning because of the different emphases placed on learning and service.
This suggests there is a clear difference between ‘service’ and ‘service learning’.