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The Service-Learning (S) course designation is intended to allow departments to demonstrate alignment of proposed service-learning courses with University of Tennessee, Knoxville standards for effectiveness. The process was developed by the Service-Learning Steering Committee in 2012 and approved for implementation by the Undergraduate Council and Faculty Senate in Fall 2016. The S designation standards have been adapted from Jeffrey Howard’s (2001) “Service-Learning Course Design Workbook,” published by the Michigan Journal for Community Service-Learning.

Please refer to the Undergraduate Council EL Subcommittee webpage for information on approval processes and catalogue policies regarding the designation.

Defining Service-Learning Courses

The “S” designation is intended to identify courses in which service-learning is implemented in accordance with the below standards.

  1. The course includes one or more academic learning outcomes that will be enhanced by the service.

Enhanced academic learning refers to the added value the service experience brings to the students’ learning. Generally there are two ways that the integration of service can enhance learning: 1) through complementing more traditional classroom- and book-based pedagogies (e.g. students improving Spanish speaking abilities by serving in a Latino/a community organization), or 2) through enabling learning possibilities precluded in more traditional pedagogies (e.g. the same students learning about Latino/a culture as a complement to their language learning). The instructor should be purposeful to design the service experience and accompanying coursework in a way that enhances the students’ academic learning in one or both of these ways. The instructor should communicate these provisions to the community partner during the planning stage.

2. The course includes one or more civic learning outcomes that will be enhanced by the service.

Civic learning involves the personalizing of the learning experience in light of the student’s role as a citizen, scholar, or professional. The civic knowledge, skills, values, or propensities to be advanced through the service-learning should be determined by the instructor, and should be reflected in the student learning outcomes and content of the course. Civic learning can range in its level of intensity from a general focus on responsible citizenship (e.g. democratic preparedness or professional ethics) to an emphasis on change-making (e.g. political or social action).

3. The instructor and one or more community partners will collaboratively design a service project or experience that advances the above mentioned student learning outcomes while meeting one or more needs identified by the community partner/s organization.

A service-learning community partner can be 1) any nonprofit or public sector organization, agency, or institution, or 2) a private sector business or establishment that is underserved in the traditional market economy. In cases such as university-operated legal or veterinary clinics, the community partner can also be the client.

4. The course includes structured reflection upon the service project/experience by the students in light of intended academic and civic learning outcomes.

Reflection is the purposeful consideration of the service project or experience by students in light of intended academic and civic learning outcomes. For example, a reflection assignment may include examining some aspect of the service project/experience in light of a theory or framework observed within the discipline. Through ongoing reflection, the service should continually inform the learning and the learning should continually inform the service so that each adds value to the other. Reflection activities can include guided discussion, structured journals, blog entries, oral presentations, or written papers. Reflection questions should be rooted in course content, and should prompt students to consider their roles and responsibilities as citizens, academics, and professionals in a complex and diverse society.

* Service-learning is defined at UT as a course-based experiential learning strategy that engages students in meaningful and relevant service with a community partner while employing ongoing reflection to draw connections between the service and course content. When implemented according to the below standards of best practice, service-learning can enhance academic learning, promote civic responsiveness, and strengthen communities. (Definition adapted from Learn & Serve America)

S Designation Application

General Course Information


Course Number and Title:

Credit Hours:

Course Description:


Credit Restrictions (if any):

Frequency of Course Offering:

Course Capacity per Semester: (per course & total if multiple sections)

Contact Name, Phone, Email:

Demonstration of Standards

  • What are the academic and civic learning outcome/s that will be enhanced by the service project or experience? See Standards #1 and #2 above.
  • How will the department ensure that the course establishes and maintains Standard #3 above? Please describe, if applicable, how the department would address a change of instructor or other potential disruption while maintaining the integrity of this standard.
  • How will the course utilize structured reflection to prompt students to consider the service project or experience in light of the intended academic and civic learning outcomes?

Download the Application for S-Designation

Submission Instructions

Colleges seeking approval for courses to receive S-designation must follow the curricular submission guidelines for new courses. After the course add is approved at the College level, the Chair or designee of the College Curriculum Committee shall submit the course proposal with a statement of purpose to Molly Sullivan (see below) along with the following:

  1. S Designation Application: Should include both General Course Information and completed Demonstration of Standards.
  2. A representative course syllabus: Should include a course description, clear indication that the course is a Service-Learning course, and course objectives defined in Standards 1 and 2 in the approval form. If available, please attach one or more samples of student work produced in conjunction with a service-learning project or experience from this course.
  3. Documentation of approval of new course at the department and college levels. (Note that the addition of the “S” designation to a course number constitutes the proposal of a new course, even if developed from an existing course, and must follow the standard approval process for new courses.)
  4. Indication as to whether the department would like to learn more about support available to this course through the campus’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Experience Learning. Courses that receive the “S” designation will become eligible to receive support through the QEP.

Please email material to Molly Sullivan, Coordinator for Curriculum and Catalogue, at Catalog proposal information must be sent as a Microsoft Word file; application material may be sent as Microsoft Word or PDF.


Proposals must be submitted by October 15, 2017 for consideration of inclusion in the 2018-19 catalogue. The Office of Service-Learning (OSL) encourages applicants to consult Kelly Ellenburg ( several weeks prior to submission to preview the process and expectations for course designations. Upon submission, S Designation applications will be reviewed by the Service-Learning Subcommittee, and successful applications routed to the Curriculum Committee of the Undergraduate Council.

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