Service Learning Summit Cancelled

Based on feedback from stakeholders, the NCSLC has decided not to hold the 2020 Service-Learning at Fayetteville State University on February 27th as planned. The timing of the summit has made it difficult for a number of interested educators and community members to participate, and we are concerned that this will prevent us from providing the networking and learning opportunities we had intended for the event.

However, we have invited presenters to share a recorded version of their sessions for the NCSLC to share online via our website and social media. Please be on the lookout for these sessions in the coming weeks.

If you registered for the summit and have NOT received a refund, please contact us at

We look forward to partnering with you in the future!

Service Learning: Designed to Motivate and Inspire

Originally published by Getting Smart
By: Liz Pitofsky

Part of the thrill of facilitating The Service Learning Project (SLP) is seeing the incredibly positive impact on youth of all ages, and there are consistent trends: Students are excited to participate in, but even more so to lead, the process. They are passionate about working together to help solve a social problem of their choice. And they are energized by the opportunity to share their proposals for change with adults in their schools and communities.

“Thank you for letting us express what we think problems are…
Thank you for giving me the confidence that I have now…
Thank you for teaching me that I will be heard if I speak up…
I wouldn’t have cared about this topic if you didn’t come.”
– SLP 4th graders

Why are children and teens so highly motivated by service learning or action civics? Research conducted by Paul Pintrich, University of Michigan professor of education and psychology, points to five essential elements of student motivation, all of which are fundamental to service learning, civics education and the SLP model.


According to the theory of self-efficacy, if students expect to do well, they will try harder, engage more deeply and show more persistence. On the other hand, if students don’t believe they can do something, they find it easier to quit or to feel that a task is impossible.

Service learning and the SLP model promotes student self-efficacy in multiple ways: First, at each step of the process, our faculty convey optimism about the general capacity of young people to create positive change, while also sharing stories about successful projects completed by other SLP participants.  Second, we emphasize the unique power young people have to capture the attention of adult decision-makers, which is confirmed during the research phase when students engage with adults who are often moved by their passion and determination. Third, we provide concrete and realistic feedback so that students do not feel overwhelmed by trying new tasks. Similarly, we make sure students do not attempt a new task, such as interviewing an adult working in their school, without sufficient preparation for the challenges that may arise.

Self-Determination and Personal Control

Not surprisingly, research also shows that students who believe they have more personal control of their own learning are more likely to engage. In an SLP project, students drive every step beginning with the selection of the social issue to be tackled. Although faculty guide the process, we ask students to take the lead by deciding what questions to research, which people to interview, which solutions to explore, etc.  Even with our younger students, who may not be quite ready to direct the process, we offer multiple options to choose from and then, at each step, follow the path about which they are most enthusiastic.

Similarly, SLP students have tremendous autonomy. Any task, big or small, that a student can handle, we give them the space to do so.  Whether it’s collecting information from their peers, facilitating a group discussion or editing a public service announcement (PSA), we encourage our young advocates to take charge and remind them throughout the process that the adults in the room are there merely to assist them in the process. This is very exciting, especially for young people who are accustomed to the more adult-driven approach of traditional classroom settings, and very effective in building their enthusiasm for the project.

Personal and Situational Interest

Tapping into personal interest is, of course, an excellent way to motivate students, which is one of the reasons our model requires that students choose the social issue to be tackled.

Situational interest, on the other hand, refers to how interested students are in specific tasks.  By allowing youth to take the lead in determining which activities to pursue, mixing up the activities throughout the process, and adjusting the focus, as needed, to evolve with the students’ growing knowledge about the issue, we ensure that the project stays interesting for our participants.

Value Calculations

Students want their work to be important and not busy work. With each activity, we make sure students understand why we’re doing it and how it will help advance their project. We also take any opportunity for students to appreciate how skills they are developing can be used outside of the SLP process in their academic and personal lives.

Goal Orientation

Students pursue many different goals in the classroom, both individual and social. Individual performance goals that are achieved through action civics include opportunities to demonstrate ability, receive recognition and compare individual progress with that of their peers.

Because social ‘success’ can be strongly related to effort and achievement, peer interaction is key to maintaining student motivation. Small group activities, which make up a significant part of the SLP process, are effective because they promote a sense of belonging to the group, demonstrate responsibility within the group, and provide emotional and cognitive support as needed during a particular activity.

Through work with SLP, we have seen the power of action civics and service learning on increasing the motivation of students. It is my hope that every student will one day experience the benefits of a service learning or action civics project—the benefits to students are profound.

What works in service-learning?

What works in service-learningA new white paper from Projects That Work at Catholic University seeks to identify “what works” in service-learning projects in middle and high schools across the country by examining what happens, how well it happens, and what factors inhibit or optimize it happening.

In Wave 1 of the research, researchers made several observations about effective service-learning projects:

  • Projects were more feasible when an adult from a community partner was involved with the project.  Students who worked with community partners also felt that they learned more and made a bigger difference in their communities.
  • Projects went more smoothly when teachers provided specific information for students about project implementation.
  • Projects that were closely aligned to academic standards led to greater student learning but were more difficult to implement
  • Students felt they learned more from projects that involved reflection activities like related readings, class discussions, and opportunities to demonstrate the project’s impact

What recommendations would you add from your own experience?  Let us know in the comments.

The entire Wave 1 white paper is available from Projects that Work.  You can read an interview with Dr. Edward Metz, lead researcher for Projects that Work, and find about about how to get involved in the study, in this article from Youth Service America.  

Featured Service Story: William Peace University Hosts Day of Service

Chris Baker, AmeriCorps/Vista Volunteer Coordinator at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC, contributed our service-learning story this week:

We recently had a very successful day of service here at William Peace University.  Over 123 students, staff, and alumni worked on 4 different projects. We also packaged meals for Stop Hunger Now, which have just recently been sent to Nicaragua.

In planning the event, one of the most critical lessons I learned was to communicate, communicate, communicate, and when you think you’ve communicated enough, communicate more. We sent out emails to participants daily leading up to the event reminding them of the basic information, and where they would be serving.  On the day of the event, if there was a question about where someone was, or what time something start, we could always have the person revert back to their emails.

Overall, our day of service impacted Raleigh directly in a very limited way. Our students only served so many meals at Oak City Outreach Center, or sorted a fraction of the clothes at North Raleigh Ministry’s Thrift Shop. We took 26 no sew blankets to Project Linus, but that only scratches the surface of what they need. However,  these actions were helpful though in two major ways. The first is that it opened the door between William Peace University, and our partner organizations.  Establishing relationship with organizations leads to great work with them, and even other organizations by association.  Secondly, it opened our students to service work as a whole.  Many of our students are familiar with service work, or maybe have participated in days of service before. Still, they experienced something unique that particular day at that particular site. Perhaps a spark was lit and smolders into a fire within that person to make service their life’s work?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more information about this event, contact Chris at

Do you have a service-learning story you’d like to share?  Send it our way:

Pictures and video are property of William Peace University.

Beyond NC: Serving and Learning in Uganda

In the remote village of Kisoro in Uganda, NC Service-Learning Coalition members reach out to support education and literacy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NCSLC Board member Thomas Ray and his daughter, Chloe, visited the village of Kisoro.  Kisoro lies on the western border of Uganda and Rwanda, where refugees from Rwanda and local villagers struggle to overcome the effects of war and poverty.

Chloe is spending a whole year teaching local children and serving the community.  The father-and-daughter team also brought two Kindle libraries, each containing more than 1300 e-books, including books in local languages.

The e-books are specifically reviewed and selected with local children in mind as part of a service project, 1KL (, founded by another board member of our own, Sam Park.

Sam founded the project to send more than 32,925 e-books to 10 countries as well as numerous schools and communities in the U.S., so children can read and learn.