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Designing Service-Learning Assignments

DePaul aims to foster a community that values diverse beliefs and recognizes and serves the common good inside and outside of the university.

One way to incorporate dimensions of social responsibility in your teaching is to raise students’ awareness of the societal roles that experts play in your field of study. Focusing on electrical engineering, Vanasup, Slivovsky and Chen argue that this awareness complements students’ technical education, and encourages an “ability to act, a willingness to act, and the awareness of needs” (Vanasupa, Slivovsky, Chen, 2006, 374). To cultivate this awareness Vanasupa, Slivovsky, and Chen suggest the following classroom activities and strategies (2006):

  1. During the first day of class read a creed or code of conduct in the students’ field of study (e.g., New York Times code of ethics). Have students reflect on what that document means for their future involvement in the field. What choices will they have to make throughout their career? What are the potential positive or negative outcomes of their contributions to a field?
  2. Discuss how a professional’s actions and contributions will affect others. For example, have students weigh the pros and cons between an economic policy that brings larger profits and funds for research but means reduced service for its customers.
  3. Have students review flow charts, cycles, or diagrams showing how their own actions affect others around them. Discuss where intervention could create a more socially responsible outcome.
  4. Encourage students to uncover and address the root of a problem rather than its symptoms. For example, when designing energy sources “by introducing the simple but profound idea that the sun is essentially our only true, renewable energy source,” students will approach a design process differently (Vanasupa, Slivovsky, Chen, 2006, 378).

Perceptions of Social Responsibility in Universities and Colleges

In 2007 the Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a survey of 23 colleges across the United States to gauge participants’ perceptions about the opportunities for learning and engagement with issues of personal and social responsibility across an institution.

The initial findings report pdf states three major findings:

  • Across all categories, students and campus professionals strongly agree that personal and social responsibility should be a major focus of a college education.
  • Across all groups surveyed, far fewer individuals agreed that personal and social responsibility was currently a major focus on their campus. There is a clear gap between what they perceive “should be” and what “is.”
  • Across all groups, significant numbers—but not a majority—of students and professionals alike think that students leave college having become stronger across various dimensions of personal and social responsibility during college.

Responding to the challenge of teaching social responsibility the AACU has developed the Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility program which aims to focus national attention on social responsibility, reclaim and revitalize the role Universities play in teaching social responsibility, and help create learning environments to meet this goal.

Further Resources

University Ministry "helps students become more complete and whole by nurturing their relationship to God and to one another, regardless of their religious affiliation."

Students have taken up the challenge of committing to social responsibility and many have acted on that commitment.

Corporation for National & Community Service offers ideas for model projects and resources you can provide to students interested in social responsibility.

Illinois Campus Compact is a coalition of Illinois colleges and universities committed to:

  • Enhancing students' sense of responsibility, citizenship and awareness of the community reinvigorating higher education's concern for improving the quality of life in our society.
  • Providing technical assistance and resources in the development of community service and service learning.
  • Convening conferences, workshops and meetings to provide members with opportunities to become "engaged campuses" and support their development in the work they do.

For more information, you can also visit the national office of Campus Compact which includes resources for assessment, program models, and service/volunteer organizations.

Ethical Leadership at DePaul pdf (pages 23-36) discusses DePaul's values, academic responsibility, and ethics. By Marco Tavanti, School of Public Service.

Additional Readings for Faculty About Social Responsibility

Abes, E. S., Jones, S. R. & McEwen, M. K. (2007). Reconceptualizing the model of multiple dimensions of identity: The role of meaning-making capacity in the construction of multiple identities. Journal of College Student Development, 48(1), 1-22.

Goodman, D. J. (2001). Motivating people from privileged groups to support social justice. Teachers College Record, 102 (6), 1061-1085.

Hardiman, R. & Jackson, B. W. (1997). Conceptual foundations for social justice courses. In M. Adams, P. Griffin & L. A. Bell (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. New York: Routledge.

Reason, R. D., Broido, E. M., Davis, T. L. & Evans, N. J. (Eds.). (2005). Developing social justice allies. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Vanasupa, L. Slivovsky, L., & Chen, K. (2006). Global challenges as inspiration: A classroom strategy to foster social responsibility Science and Engineering Ethics, 12, (2), 373-380.

Suggested Articles to Assign In Your Classroom About Social Responsibility

Ganaposki, A. (2001). Being poor: A look inside this secret society. About Campus, 6, 29-30.

Illich, I. (1990). To hell with good intentions. In J.C. Kendal (Ed.), Combining service and learning: A resource book for community and public service (pp. 314-320). Raleigh, NC: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education.

McCune, P. (2001). What do disabilities have to do with diversity? About Campus, 2, 5-12.

Williams, L. B. (1998, March/April). Behind every face is a story. About Campus, 16-21.

Zinn, H. (2004, September 2). The optimism of uncertainty. Retrieved on May 23 2008 from,