Writing an Effective Service-Learning Position Description

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#1 Remember: The better the Position Description, the Better the Student Match

Each quarter members of the Carlson Center staff make strategic matches between the content being studied in service-learning courses and positions at various community organizations.  By submitting a service-learning position you are advertising your position to students enrolled in courses that have been identified as having a logical fit with your organization.  Writing a great position description helps to clearly convey information about your organization to these students.  The more a student knows before signing up for a service-learning position, the better fit they can find that matches their talents, interests, and strengths.

#2 Consider: Is Service-Learning a good fit?

Not every organization or position is an ideal fit for service-learning.  When considering whether service-learning is a good fit for your organization, think about the following:

  1. What am I hoping a service-learning student could accomplish?  Is it reasonable to expect a service learning student to accomplish this task in 3-5 hours a week for 8-9 weeks over the course of the academic quarter?
  2. Will my organization be able to provide adequate supervision of a service-learning student?  Is there someone in the organization who is easily accessible, can respond to student inquiries and evaluate the student’s performance at the end of the quarter?
  3. Does your organization have a solid structure in place for a student, who may potentially have limited knowledge of your organization, to easily plug into

If you answered no to any of these questions, service-learning may not be the best fit for your organization.  Be in touch with our staff; we are happy to help you think through ways to recruit student volunteers.  Outside of service-learning, community partners are always welcome to advertise volunteer, internships, and job opportunities via our Public Service Opportunities Bulletin.

If you answered yes to these questions, service-learning could be a great fit for your organization.  Continue with the following steps to begin writing a position.

 
# 3 Title: Catch Their Attention

When students log in to our online system to choose their service-learning position, they see a list of service-learning position titles available at various community organizations.  By clicking on the title, students are then able to learn more about a specific position.  Why not catch a student’s attention right away with an exciting title?  Some of our most creative position titles submitted recently by community partners include: Data Ninja, Marketing & Registration Genius, and Multimedia Outreach Magician.

# 4 The Job Description: What will a Service-Learner Do?

This is the most important piece of the position description; if written well it will give students an accurate sense of the type of work in which they will be engaged while working with your organization.  Our online system asks you to specify the job description in three specific ways:

  1. How does the service-learning position contribute to the mission of the organization?
  2. What do the day-to-day tasks of the job look like?
  3. How will this service-learning position impact the organization or the people served by the organization?

By giving thorough answers to these questions, students will have a clear idea of your expectations for them as a service-learner.  Including specific day-to-day tasks and avoiding broad generalizations always helps.  Let them know what type of skills a successful service-learner should possess.  Promote the skills they can expect to gain by participating in service-learning at your organization.

Remember, not every position or community organization is a good fit for every student.  Be specific about what type of student you are looking for.  Do you need a student who is creative?  Tech savvy?  Comfortable working in diverse populations?  Works well in high stress situations?  Do your service-learners have to meet an age requirement?  Complete a background check?  Include these details in your position description.

# 5 Formatting: Clean it Up!

After typing up the answers to the questions required in the job description, take a look at what you wrote.  Is it easy to read?  Does it make sense?  Remember, students may be looking at dozens of potential service-learning positions through our online system.  By writing short, concise paragraphs and using bullet points, you can make it easy for students to learn what your organization is all about.

# 6 Location: Where are You?

While many UW students live on or near the university, UW students live all over the greater Seattle area.  The location of your organization may affect a student’s ability to make a commitment to your organization.  Provide a clear address and driving and busing directions.

# 7 Scheduling

Just like you, students have very busy schedules.  It is essential to be very clear about the times of day you are looking for a service-learner to work with your organization.  That way, students can compare their schedule to yours before signing up.

#8 Orientation: Getting the Student Started

The Carlson Center asks community organizations to provide their service-learners with an orientation at the outset of their service-learning experience. In your position description, you may either set a specific date and time to hold your orientation or you can request that the student call or e-mail their orientation contact to set up a mutually agreeable date and time for the orientation.

In the position description, provide clear information regarding whom the student should contact to set up the orientation.  What is the location and address of the orientation?  Is your orientation date flexible?  How should a student prepare for the orientation?  Are there any forms or documents they need to bring with them?

Remember, the clearer your instructions, the more likely you will be able to set up an orientation at the beginning of the quarter and get your student involved with your organization right away.

 

If you have any questions about writing service-learning positions or considering whether a position may be a good fit for a service-learner, feel free to e-mail or call the Carlson Center.  We can be reached at 206.543.4282 and serve@uw.edu

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