Community Service

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One way in which service learning can be incorporated into the curriculum of an economics course is through community service. Each student should be required to dedicate a specific number of hours to a community organization. While working at the organization, students should document their experiences in journals and from there be prepared to discuss their experiences in class. Through this method, students will become more comfortable writing about and discussing economic terms.

Example: Students learning about tax policies could volunteer with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). This organization sends volunteers into lower socioeconomic areas to help individuals file their taxes to insure that they receive all the credits for which they are eligible. By volunteering here, students will learn about concepts such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or different tax brackets.

Additionally, students are given the opportunity to see that economic issues within the community can not be described solely through quantitative terms. “Indeed, if they have the opportunity to interact with those they serve, they may also realize that many of the factors contributing to people’s predicaments are neither quantifiable in the neoclassical tradition nor consistent with the standard analysis presented in texts. (McGoldrick, Ziegert, 2002)”

Gail Hoyt (2002) used service learning in an economics statistics course to teach regression analysis. Students worked with community agencies to collect and analyze data and conduct research projects to benefit these community groups.

More examples of how to implement community service into an economics curriculum can be found here.

How to implement

1. Students are required to assist at a community organization. Students may be assigned to an organization by the instructor or the student may choose.

2. Students typically volunteer 10 to 30 hours to the specific organization and should document their experiences in a journal.

3. The experiences of the students can be integrated into the curriculum through class discussions, presentations, and/or a formal paper.

4. Generally, the service learning component consists of ten percent of the students' final grade.