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Definition and General Guidelines for Credit-Bearing Courses with Service-Learning Components


  1. The Centre for Innovative Service-Learning (CISL) was established in December 2017. One of its duties is to provide support to faculty members for the development and implementation of service-learning courses at Hong Kong Baptist University. The proposed definitions and guidelines, endorsed by the Committee on Innovative Service-Learning (ISLC), are for credit-bearing courses in the undergraduate curriculum.
  2. It is not mandatory for students to take courses with service-learning components.

Defining Academic Service-Learning at HKBU

  1. At Hong Kong Baptist University, service-learning constitutes a key component of academic learning. By means of fostering innovation, students and faculty apply their academic knowledge and skills to address community needs off-campus. Meaningful service projects anchored in a specific curriculum are developed to contribute to the common good of humankind in the effort to enrich students’ academic learning and personal growth. Structured service-learning opportunities are built into academic curricula directly, allowing students to reflect better upon their experience as citizens and whole persons and to conceptualise and enact effective relationships between their academic learning and community service locally, nationally and globally.

Course Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. In addition to the academic learning outcomes prescribed in the syllabus, courses with service-learning components will include additional common learning outcomes. Students will
    1. Apply their cumulative learning gained from their discipline knowledge/course and beyond to address specific community issues by means of innovation;
    2. Demonstrate deep self-understanding, empathy and caring for others and great sense of commitment to the common good of humankind;
    3. Develop a habit of critical reflection for life-long and life-wide learning, personal and professional development, and
    4. Identify ways to strengthen generic competencies and professional skills.

Service-Learning Courses

  1. A course with service-learning components can be:
    1. A GE Level 3 Capstone Course targeting Year 3 or 4 students from any disciplines - Capstone courses allow students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their studies and combine it with relevant service work in the community.
    2. A course offered by a department to students majoring/minoring in the programme or as a free elective – These courses intend to target students with certain academic backgrounds or more in-depth knowledge of a particular subject.
  2. The course can last for one to two semesters and the service can take place during or outside lecture hours.
  3. A minimum of ten hours, including preparation and direct service provided to the target population.
  4. Although a smaller class size may work better for service-learning courses, the optimal class size should be determined by the pedagogical practices adopted.
  5. In addition to lectures, coursework and assessment on academic components, a course with service-learning elements should include:
    1. A service project that is meaningful to the community partner and relevant to the subject;
    2. Pre-service briefing/training, and
    3. Structured student reflection.

Types of Service Projects

  1. The service projects could be:
    1. Direct service-learning - face-to-face service projects in which students directly impact individuals who use the service;
    2. Indirect service-learning - working on issues and projects that have clear benefits to the community but not necessarily to people with whom students directly work with;
    3. Research-based service-learning - engaging in research with the purpose of solving a community issue or effecting social change, or
    4. Advocacy service-learning - educating others about specific problems and projects that aim at creating awareness and actions.
  2. In all four types, students should have opportunities to provide service to the target population either directly or indirectly in a way that will benefit the receivers as well as contribute to students’ learning and cultivate their empathy and caring for others.

Types of Community Partners

  1. The community partners should be organisations whose mission and work address community needs. They could be
    1. Non-profit or public sector organisations, agencies or institutions;
    2. Social enterprises, or
    3. Non-profit making divisions of a business organisation.

Assessment and Grading

  1. Student performance in the service-learning courses is evaluated by the instructors teaching the course. Given the diversified nature of subject contents and service projects, course instructors can use any forms of assessment that fit the Intended Learning Objectives (ILOs) of the course. Students should be graded on their performance in meeting the academic demands of the course by employing the criterion-referenced assessment, a tenet of Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning.
  2. The assessment should be aligned with the appropriate ILOs, including both subject-specific and common intended learning outcomes, to ensure there is sufficient evidence to show whether or not students have achieved the ILOs at the end of the course.
  3. As the service aspect of the course is an important ingredient in the learning process, instructors may seek the input of community partners but the final evaluation should always be made by the faculty member teaching the course.

Approval of Courses with Service-Learning Components

  1. Courses with service-learning components are part of the regular curricular offerings of academic departments and therefore no additional approval is required.