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The purpose of this study was to develop a working definition of service-Ieaming, identify the best practices of service-learning in the Christian college context and based upon that information develop a model that could be replicated at similar colleges and universities. To address the research questions, the researcher performed a descriptive study which incorporated the following: (a) examination of the findings of unpublished data from a survey on service-Iearning at 90 Christian colleges and universities and notes from a conference on service-learning at faith-based institutions; (b) conducting a thorough review of the literature on service-learning and the mission and purpose of Christian higher education; and (c) interviewing practitioners from seven Christian colleges or universities that met prescribed criteria for best practices in service-Iearning. A content analysis was performed with the use of an inter-rater that resulted in a comprehensive definition of service-learning, key elements of best practices in service-learning and a model which incorporates eight guidelines for Christian colleges and universities to use in developing a service-Iearning program.

The comprehensive definition incorporated characteristics from previous definitions, but included an added component of institutional support for service-learning. The best practices in service-learning in Christian higher education corroborate this finding and included the following key elements: Institutional Support, Mission, Definitions and Guidelines, Academic Validity, and Faith and Learning Tool. The model for designing a service-learning program at a Christian college builds further upon the definition and best practices and includes eight guidelines: (a) examine the mission9 (b) enlist others, (c) establish a definition (d) educate and train, (e) develop community partnerships, (f) pilot test, (g) reflect and evaluate, and (h) gain institutional support. The guidelines, which make up the model, are meant to address both the philosophical and practical implications in designing an effective service-learning course and program in a Christian institution. The data from this study strongly suggest that Christian colleges and universities should be using service-learning as a means of furthering their faith-based mission through the curriculum.


Copyright2002 by Regan Harwell Schaffer

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