Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE)

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Community Service Learning (CSL)

- Community Service Learning Pedagogy  
- Creating a CSL Course  
- Principles and Practice  


Pedagogy - Community Service Learning:

Community service learning (CSL) is the integration of classroom study with service in the community that has been proven to increase learning outcomes. Although there are similarities with other forms of experiential learning, such as volunteering and internships, CSL differs in important ways. First, unlike a volunteering, CSL requires a strong academic component, i.e. intentional connection to academic study. Second, through a process of structured reflection, the service experience is integrated with classroom learning to develop a student’s professional skills, civic knowledge, and foster a sense of personal social responsibility. Thus, CSL sits at the intersection of three components: academic learning, experiential learning, and civic learning.


The benefits of CSL to community, faculty, students and to the University are numerous, including:

• Capacity building for community organizations

• The enhancement of civic learning

• The development of innovative approaches to instruction

• Opportunities for collaboration, research, and publication



CSL at SF State During 2012-2013 Academic Year

7 - Colleges

47 - Departments

270 - Faculty

451 - CSL Course Sections

8,670 -Students Enrolled in CSL Courses

232,237 -Students CSL Hours (Estimate - 58hrs Average per Student)

134,385 - Clients Served (Estimate)


$2.3 Million - Value of Services to San Francisco Bay Area communities at the City of SF 2010 minimum wage of $9.92 per hour.

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Creating a Course:

The Community Service Learning Program (CSL) coordinates campus-wide CSL into the undergraduate and graduate curricula at San Francisco State by: (a) helping faculty identify and/or develop their CSL courses; (b) identifying appropriate placement sites for the service component; and (c) helping community partners (businesses, non-profits, and public/government agencies) connect with appropriate departments and faculty.


Faculty wishing to develop a CSL course should follow the steps below:


Step #1: Design

Develop a course design that includes a service component and reflection activity. For assistance, please contact Perla Barrientos at 415-338-3282 or email:


Step #2: Designation

Officially have the course designated as a Community Service Learning (CSL) course. If this has not been done, please contact Perla Barrientos at 415-338-3282 or email:


Step #3: Identify Community Partner(s)

Search our online ULink49 database for appropriate placements. (ICCE staff can do this for you.) ULink49 lists organizations that meet SF State's risk management requirements and who have signed a formal CSL agreement with ICCE. Contact Jean Gasang via email at


Step #4: Student Placement

This is a requirement for all SF State students participating in community engaged work. 


  • Have students register in the ULink49 web-based database where they are informed of their rights and are given guidelines for student conduct.
  • Have students watch the "Give Back" video. This video uses images, interviews, and text to provide information on the City's Diverse neighborhoods and cultures, background on how to work with communities respectfully while doing community engaged work, and provides clarity about student’s rights/responsibilities, as well as faculty expectation around civic engagement and leadership development. The universal language of the film serves to encourage audiences to examine power, privilege and stereotyping through the lens of interrelatedness and cooperation. Students should download Certificate of Completion, sign it and return it to you.


"Give Back" Video

_____________ _____________ 

Principles and Practices of CSL


1) Learning Objectives: Students learn best when academic objectives are clear and specific. Integrate questions of moral, ethical, and civic responsibility into the reflection assignment.


2) The Service Experience: Before placing students, consider the organization’s (a) stability and organizational structure; (b) reputation in the community; (c) ability to provide resources to students that support their work; and 4) the relevance of the service to broader civic and social issues. Make sure that tasks relate to learning objectives.


3) Context: Create balance between the students’ class time, community work, and the reflection assignment.


4) Relationship with Community Agencies: Relationships between faculty and community-based organizations work best when they are ongoing and when each party feels they are sharing equitably. Respond to the need as defined by the community organization. Share your syllabus and learning objectives for the course.


5) Supervision: Each student must have a supervisor at the community service site. To assure continuity and support, agencies are encouraged to accept more than one student per placement and to invite students to staff meetings. Supervisors are asked to contribute to student evaluations, provide orientations and/or training for the student, and be available for solving problems.


6) Academic Credit: Give academic credit for what is learned, not simply for services performed.

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