Program Overview

​​​​Overview for the Student

In the Service Learning Program, San José City College (SJCC) students go into the community as students, not volunteers. They go to listen and explore, question and wonder, observe, feel, and experience. That is why what they do is not adequately described as community service. In order for students to have sufficient time for these experiences, they are placed in agencies or programs that do not rely on them for survival. And we have them work in an unstructured capacity, because they are there primarily to learn.

Students are required to visit the Job Placement Center to receive basic sign-up information and necessary forms for the service learning experience. Faculty and staff will provide students with end-of-service learning evaluation forms.

Overview for Community Partners

Criteria for Service Learning Site

A service learning site/agency must maintain most or all these desirable characteristics:

  • Is stable and well-organized.

  • Should provide an on-going service in areas such as, but not limited to: health, education, welfare, social action, or the environment.

  • The service of the agency will continue to be provided without the help of the SJCC student.

  • Serves underserved people, or addresses timely community issues of the San José community.

  • What SJCC students do and experience at the placement site enhances their academic endeavors.

How does an agency become part of the Service Learning Program?

  • ​​​​​Contact can be initiated by either party (agency or SJCC).

  • Fill out the Community Partner Request Form (contact Service Learing Program office).

  • The CPR Form will be confirmed and the agency will be contacted by SJCC.

How does the agency help the student?

Agency staff should have a clear understanding of what student responsibilities will be and be willing to help the students meet those responsibilities. Students will engage in activities which provide direct service to the people whom the agency serves.

Agency staff give the support necessary for the students to work at least 80% with clients. The remaining time may be spent supporting the work of the agency, so long as students are not expected to run programs or engage in planning and developing programs for the agency.

An agency agrees to provide an orientation or training for SJCC students.

The orientations are run by agency staff and generally have these goals:

  • Familiarize the student volunteers with the agency and staff.

  • Inform students of their responsibilities while at the site, and listen to students' needs and goals.

  • Provide information and suggestions to help students benefit from their experience.

  • Offer tips for getting started and about avoiding pitfalls.

  • Define the scope of the authority of the students.

  • Explain the benefit of their presence to clients and the benefit of clients to students.

If possible, supplemental materials, such as a volunteer handbook, should be supplied. A participating agency will be asked to fill out an evaluation form for the SJCC Service Learning Program.

Overview for Faculty​

Reflection Process

In addition to attending an orientation and faithful participation, reflection is the third essential component to successful community-based learning. It is essential because community-based learning often teaches students both effectively and intellectually. This is a powerful "double dose" of learning that requires sorting out.

Sometimes a student's preconceived notions about people and situations are challenged. For example, a student may be surprised at how lively and how intellectually alert a senior citizen who is in frail health can be. If a student does not have the opportunity to reflect on this newly acquired information, he or she may simply decide the person with whom he or she is working is not like the rest of senior citizens. That is, the student will not question the accuracy of his or her preconceived notions about the elderly, but will decide that this person is exceptional.

Actively reflecting on the experience allows the student to think about his or her experience in broad terms. It encourages the student to put the learning provided by the interaction with, for example, the senior citizen, into the contact of a academic discipline and at the same time to evaluate personally held beliefs in light of the experience.

Actively reflecting on the implications of the community-based learning experience for both the affective and academic perspectives is essential to a successful course--embedded, community-based learning experience.

 Syllabus Sample

As a requirement for this course you are asked to participate In the Service Learning Program which involves spending approximately one to two hours per week for 8 weeks with an older adult at one of the Service Learning Program placements (see me for other options). Remember that your placement is a learning environment. 
You will be required to maintain a log (journal) in which you will document your thoughts, feelings, and observations regarding these experiences. Your log book counts for 30% of your final grade. I will collect and grade your books periodically throughout the course, with one-week notice when I will collect them. I prefer that your log be kept on computer and printed out on paper, but if this is not feasible, please write your log clearly in a note book. While visiting, keep the following questions in mind and answer these in full and thoughtful sentences in your log book. You are not limited to these questions. Please see me immediately if you have any questions, problems, or other issues associated with your placement.

*Log Book Assignment 1*: Before your first placement visit, write down a few of the myths of aging that you have held or currently still hold. Additionally, question approximately 10 people regarding some of the myths that are associated with aging. Try to survey people of different ethnicity and backgrounds. What are their views of aging? Would you say that, for the most part, the people you surveyed have a positive or negative view of aging? What are your views on aging, primarily positive or negative?

Visit 1: Make sure you are comfortable in this situation and also that others feel comfortable around you. What do you notice about the people here? Are they generally happy or sad, agitated or calm? During your first visit, are any of the myths that you thought were true about the elderly evident here? While at your first visit, keep in mind the biopsychosocial method of study outlined in your book. Why do you think these three branches of study are necessary to fully understand what is happening as we get older? Discuss the various definitions of age and find examples in your placement.

Visit 2: During the second and third weeks of the course, we will discuss various biological changes that naturally occur in the brain and body of people as we get older. For your second visit, keep in mind what we learned in class. Are any of the changes we talked about evident in this population? How can you tell? What methods are used for compensation? Do you think the facility is aware that the environment elderly people are in can either help or hinder their sensory limitations?

VISIT 3: What health factors do you notice at your placement? Do these older adults typically smoke? Drink alcohol? Does the atmosphere appear stressful for the patrons?

*Log Book Assignment II* - Changing behaviors: This involves informal interviews of a few of your classmates or acquaintances. If you know someone who smokes, find out if they are aware of the long-term effects of smoking (emphysema, lung cancer). Describe these diseases to them (outline your presentation in your log book). If they are aware of the dangers that await them, do they still choose to smoke? Why or why not? What are your thoughts? If you can't find a smoker, have a similar discussion with people you know who are interested in keeping that California tan. Warn them of the dangers of exposure to the sun and how that may affect them later in life. Will they change their current behaviors to avoid disease in later life? Why or why not? You may choose your own health hazard, as well.

VISIT 4: At this point, we have discussed information processing. Are you able to detect any deficits in attention in the person you are with this quarter? If yes, is it in selective attention, the capacity of attention, or vigilance? Do you notice that their psychomotor speed is slower than yours? What might account for this? Do they still drive? If yes, do you think they should? If no, do you think they could? What kind of arguments could be given for both sides?

VISIT 5: A common complaint among the elderly is that their memory isn't the same as it used to be. Is there an obvious memory impairment in the person you are in contact with? Does s/he complain of memory failures? What kind of an impact does this have on this person? What is his/her outlook on his/her future? Is s/he looking forward to it?

VISIT 6: What do you think intelligence is? If an older person appears less intelligent, what might be some other factors responsible for this decline? What are some difficulties with research on this topic (compare and contrast research methodologies). Can you detect a difference between fluid and crystallized intelligence in this person? If you are studying a person with Alzheimer's disease, is any aspect of his/her intelligence spared? How could this be measured?

VISIT 7: Discuss the usefulness of adopting the biopsychosocial model in the study of older adults.

VISIT 8: Your last visit. What have you gained from this experience?

*Log Book Assignment III*: Your task is to design a facility for senior citizens. Assume you have unlimited funds. Include specifics about the building layout and also social programs for older adults. Include justifications for your facility.

Use of Journal


Students are requested to make a journal entry after each visit to placement sites. The faculty member requests that students' journal entries "be no less than 2 double-spaced, typed pages." (This is just a guideline - you can certainly hand-write them and take more time, but this should act as a minimum.) These journal entries can be very descriptive, don't anguish about putting your experiences into "academese."

Department: Communications
Purpose of service learning was clearly evident in the syllabus:
"The purpose of the service learning component is to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on the process of communication and the rules, language and, cultural specificity that become apparent when we are placed in new situations."

Guided questions for journal entries were part of the syllabus:
"Consider the following questions in your journal entries. With the exception of the first and the last, which should be answered in the first and last entries of your journal, you can answer them in any order. Issues will be raised at different times in different placements. You are also not restricted to these questions, but should address them. Not all will be relevant to each placement, (See numbers 8,9,10) which is why there are more questions than there are weeks at the placement. Some may be combined, if you wish, but check with me before you decide NOT to answer a question. Please drop by or give me a call if you have any questions."

1. Reflect on your preconceptions about the people you will be working with. Where did you learn those preconceptions? How were they communicated to you? How did they influence the way you interacted with the individuals at your placement on your first visit?

2. What role has non-verbal communication played in your visit? Are there certain things that you believe are not being expressed verbally (due to shyness, not really knowing one another), but which you are picking up on nonverbally? Are you aware of your own non-verbal communication? (You can discuss one particular incident or a regular behavior you observed.)

3. We have discussed how subjective human communication is, and that the process is one of constant negotiation. Consider an example of a moment or situation at the placement where you seemed to be cross-communicating with someone. ("You said the same thing but didn't get it.") What might explain the different expressions of the same idea? How did you ultimately figure it out (or did you)?

4. If the director of the agency where you worked asked you to create a public service announcement to raise money for their organization, what would you say must be taken into consideration about the receivers? Who (or what) would you use as the source of your message?

5. Consider the way you communicate verbally when you are at the placement. Are there certain rules to the conversations you have? Are they different from other conversations? Why? What can you learn about the people you are working with by the way they use language? What do you think they can learn about you?

6. Consider the stages of relationships that Ruben sets out in Chapter 10. Can you apply these to a relationship you have developed in the placement? How did it evolve? Do any of the factors he lists as influencing patterns of a relationship apply? Do you recognize any of the relational patterns he describes in this chapter in your own relationship at the placement?

7. Are there evident groups at your placement? How do they define themselves? What role do you think they play? Who appears to wield authority and how is that communicated?

8. If possible, observe media use at your placement (or talk with someone about how they use the media). What functions does it serve for these individuals? Do they have favorite media? Shows? Which are they and why?

9. Your placement has been designed to serve a particular population. Given that population, what is your own sense of how they are portrayed by our mass media? Is the portrayal accurate? In what ways? Do you believe this could be an important source of information for the larger population? How could others use media in the socialization process and what might be the result?

10. Talk with some of the people at the placement or people who work at the placement. If they could create a television show, film, magazine, book ... about themselves or the people they work with, what would it be like? What would they try to communicate? How would it be different from what is out there right now?

11. In your final entry, consider what role communication has played in your experience. How has it helped you learn about the people you work with and yourself. Are you more aware of yourself as a communicator? Have your ideas about the role of the placement changed? How and why? Has this been a helpful way to study communication for you?



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