Caveats of Service-Learning in Writing Courses
Courses that combine service-learning and writing are particularly vulnerable to the following constraints:
- Temporal constraints: The academic schedule is one factor that tends to separate academic institutions from the rest of the community. Community-based writing projects generally place more complex demands on students than do traditional writing assignments, and what can be accomplished in a single course during a single semester does not effectively address the needs of students or the community partners they serve.
- "Spatial" constraints: Traditional disciplines tend to regard programs like service-learning and composition-programs that refuse to fit neatly into departmental structures-as competitors for resources and recognition. To gain institutional support, service-learning and composition programs generally must operate within a traditional framework that might not meet the needs of those "both inside and outside the academy who view the world in terms of issues and problems that cannot be neatly divided or fit into problems of Sociology, Composition, History, Engineering, and so forth" (AAHE).
- Evaluative constraints: Especially when students are highly invested in grades, service-learning exposes some of the flaws in traditional methods of evaluating writing.
- Instructor as sole evaluator: Writing for service-learning courses involves a real audience of community members whose stakes in the writing produced are at least as high as the instructor's. Thus, some instructors have experimented with various ways of involving community members in evaluating student writing.
- Evaluating individual performances: Much of the writing done in service-learning courses is collaborative, and it is often difficult to evaluate any individual's participation. Furthermore, the content of a service-learning course frequently challenges beliefs in individualism and meritocracy that are perpetuated by the common grading system.
View Sample Service-Learning Assignments for Writing Courses