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A successful international service learning program includes three key elements; contributing to sustainable development projects, engaging in meaningful reflection, and participating in curriculum based educational activities. These are the core elements to a well designed international service learning program, but what do these elements aim to achieve?

Below we outline five of the most important educational understandings that students should return home with.

The Top Learning Objectives of Effective Service Learning Programs

5 Essential Learning Outcomes


1. Develop an understanding of international service learning and see it carried out in their host country.

Service learning is a unique educational technique that connects classroom experience to curriculum based learning. After participating in a program students should understand why service learning is beneficial, how it works, and the importance of continuing to seek out real world experiences that contextualizes textbook knowledge.

2. Learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how they are being implemented in both their home and host countries.

Students will study the Sustainable Development Goals and reflect on each individual’s part in contributing to them. Students will leave their project with an understanding of the goals importance both internationally and domestically. Importance will be placed on empowering individuals to realize that they are an integral part in creating change.

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3. Explore their personal role in global development through in-country service learning and reflection.

Students will spend a good portion of their experience relating self to a global context. Throughout the experience emphasis will be placed on students embracing their role as global citizens and determining what this means in regards to long-term community involvement.

The Top Learning Objectives of Effective Service Learning Programs

4. Develop new skills and awareness; including writing, reflection, intercultural competency, and global citizenship.

Everyday educational activities will increase students skill set surrounding both academic and personal development. Hard skills such as improving written communication, learning how to engage in effective reflection, and developing the ability to analyze situations from an objective viewpoint are all woven into the service learning curriculum.

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5. Practice personal and professional abilities like patience, flexibility, confidence, adaptability, teamwork, leadership, and strategic problem solving.

Students will add a large variety of soft skills to their repertoire. Emphasis will be placed on connecting experience to skill development so that students can communicate, with examples, how they were able to build and strengthen these abilities.

Of course, learning objectives are simply a road map for measuring development. The reality is that students will walk away from this experience with additional understandings as well as their own personal growth from participating. That is the beauty of service learning, getting the chance to watch a group grow as a unit while simultaneously watching individuals grow within the context of their personal history and perspectives.

GVI is a multi-award winning Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.

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