Types of Service-Learning Activities

Types of service-learning activities include direct service, indirect service, advocacy, and community-based research. Who is served, and how they are served, distinguishes the different types.

Direct Service

Direct service activities are those that require personal contact with people in need. This type of service is generally the most rewarding for students because they receive immediate positive feedback during the process of helping others. Examples of direct service activities include students' working with senior citizens in an intergenerational project or reading to small children. Direct service teaches students to take responsibility for their actions. Students also learn that they can make a difference.

Indirect Experience

Indirect experiences are commonly implemented in schools because they are easy to organize and they involve students' working behind the scene. These activities are centered in channeling resources to the problem rather than working directly with an individual who may need the service. Often students do not come in contact with the people they serve. Examples of indirect service include collecting food or toys for disadvantaged families and participating in landscaping a community park or other environmental projects. Indirect service projects are generally done by a group. They teach teamwork and organizational skills.


Advocacy as a service experience requires students to lend their voices and talents to the effort to eliminate the causes of a specific problem and to make the public aware of the problem. Activities may include making presentations to the community about particular issues or distributing literature about the issues throughout the neighborhood. Students learn to present their concerns clearly, to be concise in presenting their ideas, and to suggest feasible solutions.

Community-Based Research

Community-based Research (CBR) can be defined as a partnership of students, faculty, and community partners who collaboratively engage in research with the purpose of solving a pressing community problem or effecting social change. Typical CRB projects include faculty, students and community partners working together to focus local attention on pressing community needs, research and evaluate new programs, evaluate and assess existing programs, or create qualitative and quantitative research tools.