Service Learning Institute

The SL Prism

SL Prism

Transforming Learning Through Community Service

CSU Monterey Bay's Service Learning Prism

As light passing through a prism, learning is fundamentally transformed by the service learning process. The Service Learning Prism depicts this transformation, highlighting three ways in which the service learning process is different from traditional approaches to academic learning.

Explanation of the Service Learning Prism

Multiple Sources of Knowledge

Traditional courses emphasize the academic discipline as the primary source of knowledge. In service learning there are three sources of knowledge:

  • Discipline-based knowledge
  • The student's own knowledge and experience
  • The community's knowledge and experience

Students are introduced to discipline-based knowledge through texts and lectures. They also utilize their own previous life experience and current involvement in the community as a valuable source of knowledge. In addition, the community contact provides students with a third perspective and knowledge-base. Service learning courses provide learning experiences that enable students to integrate these three sources of knowledge.

Engaging with the Sides of Service

By engaging in a community service activity, the concept of service itself becomes a central focus of the learning process. At CSUMB, we emphasize the following four sides of service:

  • Diversity: issues related to service in a multicultural society
  • Compassion: understanding the world from another person's perspective
  • Justice: how power, privilege and oppression affect the service setting
  • Social Responsibility: an individual's commitment and engagement with civic society

Identifying Service Learning Objectives

By explicitly making these issues part of the curriculum, students actively clarify their own conception of service as they participate in the community. Service learning enables moral and civic learning to become a component of the curriculum. Learning becomes a tool for both individual and social betterment.

Through service learning, CSUMB students acquire the knowledge, skills and awareness to become more culturally aware, self-reflective and responsive community participants.