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Queen's University

Centre for Teaching and Learning

Community Service Learning

What is Community Service Learning?

Community Service Learning (CSL) is a pedagogy characterized by student participation in an organized service activity that is connected to specific learning outcomes, meets identified community needs and provides structured time for student reflection.

Another important component of CSL is that all parties involved have a say in the project from start to finish, including design, implementation, reflection and follow-up. Many CSL projects have a strong emphasis on issues of social justice, as well as critical thinking and awareness about the role of these sorts of projects in an increasingly-complex world.

Why use Community Service Learning?

Community Service Learning is first and foremost a form of pedagogy; a series of techniques, philosophies and actions that combine to create an especially effective learning environment. Students who have the opportunity to be involved with CSL experience a greater depth of learning by interacting with course materials, their colleagues and their community in a fundamentally different way than in the traditional classroom setting.

Community Service Learning Teaching Strategies

There are six key criteria for best-practice CSL pedagogy

  •       Integrated Learning
  •       Quality Service
  •       Collaboration
  •       Civic Responsibility
  •       Reflection
  •       Evaluation

Whether a particular CSL experience or project is integrated with a credit-bearing course, or a part of a co-curricular educational program, it is important to have well-defined learning objectives, solid reflection materials, pre-service orientation sessions and targeted reading assignments.

Practitioners should also keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Why this particular service component in this particular academic context?
  • How will campus and community boundaries be discussed, defined and negotiated?


Your first step in working with CSL pedagogy at Queen’s may involve a meeting with the CSL Coordinator, Matthew Ascah, who can be reached at


Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning 

  • This is the homepage of the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning, the professional organization for those involved with CSL initiatives in Canada.

Books and Articles

Please note that all materials listed below are available in the Centre For Teaching and Learning Resource Library

Eyler, Janet and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. Where's The Learning In Service-Learning?. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 1999.

  • This book contains some excellent various methodologies and rubrics related to CSL.

Stoecker, Randy and Elizabeth A. Tryon eds. The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, 2009.

  • This text challenges many of the commonly-held beliefs and misconceptions about CSL, and reinforces the importance of social justice and the role of community partners in the pedagogy.

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