Other Youth Topics

Principles & Standards of Effective Programs

The following summarizes the eight standards developed and released by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) in 2008.1 Download K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice (PDF, 4 pages) for the full set of standards, which are based on research and expert opinion and include included the strongest evidence-based elements of effective practice.

  1. Service-learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities. To meet this standard, service-learning needs to be
    • age-appropriate and personally relevant;
    • interesting and engaging;
    • well understood by participants in the context of social issues addressed; and
    • outcome-oriented with specific attainable outcomes.
  2. Service-learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards. To meet this standard, programs need to
    • have clearly stated goals;
    • be aligned with the academic curriculum;
    • include explicit teaching of transferring skills from one setting to another; and
    • for school-based programs, be formally recognized in school board policies and in student records.
  3. Service-learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society. Students should participate in a variety of activities to demonstrate changes in their knowledge, skills, or attitudes. Additionally, students should examine their beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes about issues, perceptions of their roles as members of their community, and the overarching issues of community problems.
  4. Service-learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants. To meet this standard, programs should integrate teaching focused on taking the perspective of the other, resolving conflicts, and promoting tolerance of diversity and overcoming stereotypes.
  5. Service-learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with guidance from adults. Service-learning programs should consistently integrate opportunities for participants to voice their opinions, propose ideas and solutions, and participate in decision-making processes.
  6. Service-learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually-beneficial, and address community needs. Service-learning programs should engage a variety of partners—including youth, educators, families, community members, community-based organizations, and/or businesses—in communications, knowledge sharing, and goal-setting.
  7. Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals and uses results for improvement and sustainability. Service-learning programs should encourage participants to
    • collect evidence of progress toward specific service goals and learning outcomes as well as the quality of implementation and
    • use and communicate the evidence to improve the service-learning experience.
  8. Service-learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes. Service-learning programs should include a needs sensing and planning time to determine the time needed for the project, be conducted during specific periods of time, and be implemented long enough to achieve the service goals and learning outcomes.


1 RMC Research Corporation, 2008