Service Learning: A National Strategy for Youth
Susan M. Andersen
Professor of Psychology
New York University
This position paper is one in a series issued by The Communitarian
Network and the George Washington University Institute for Communitarian
Policy Studies (ICPS). This position paper benefitted from the deliberations
and comments of The Communitarian Network's and the Institute's
Education Policy Task Force. Members of the Education Policy Task
Susan M. Andersen, Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology,
New York University
Charles Haynes, Senior Scholar, Religious Freedom Programs, First
Howard Kirschenbaum, Frontier Professor of School, Family and Community
Relations, University of Rochester
Thomas Magnell, Professor of Philosophy, Drew University
Warren Nord, Director, Program in Humanities and Human Values, University
of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Rosalie Pedalino Porter, Chairman of the Board, READ Institute
Charles Quigley, Executive Director, Center for Civic Education
Catherine Ross, Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University
Amitai Etzioni, Founder and Director, The Communitarian Network
These position papers fall within the purview of ideas expressed
in The Responsive Communitarian Platform. Position papers are disseminated
and promoted by The Communitarian Network and the George Washington
University Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. Other Communitarian
Network/ICPS Task Forces at work include the Family, Community Justice,
and American Society Task Forces.
Table of Contents
A. National, State, and Local Levels
B. School Level
A. What is the Need and Why Service Learning?
The sense of connection and belonging.
Relationship-building and community-building.
Overcoming intergroup barriers.
B. What is Service Learning?
Service Learning involves regular opportunities for reflection.
Service Learning is integrated into an organized curriculum.
Some other distinctions.
C. Examples of Service Learning
Social service projects.
D. What Does Service Learning Accomplish?
Engaging youth with their communities.
Developing the ethic of service.
Enhancing civic attitudes.
Cultivating social connectedness.
Fostering acceptance of diversity.
Developing competence/self-esteem and protecting against risky behavior.
Improving/supporting academic achievement.
E. Voluntary or Required?
Voluntary Service Learning opportunities for students.
Mandating Service Learning for all students.
F. National Campaign to Promote Service Learning
"Formal" and "informal" Service Learning.
Private-public partnerships and seed funding.
Guidelines for quality.
Guidelines for assessing effectiveness.
Guidelines for implementation.
I. Policy Recommendations
National, State, and Local Levels
·All young people should have available to them the opportunity
to engage in community service as part of K-12 and higher education.
That is, they should have an opportunity to participate in Service
Learning. Whether coordinated by schools or by community-based organizations,
Service Learning is community service integrated into an organized
curriculum and accompanied by systematic reflection, and it should
be promoted and offered within educational institutions. The Administration
and Congress should pursue a agenda to make Service Learning a reality
in schools nationwide on a voluntary basis. This agenda should reach
across government agencies--with a focus on the Corporation for
National Service and the Department of Education based on their
Joint Declaration in 1995 to collaborate in increasing Service Learning
as part of Goal 3 of Goals 2000 involving citizenship education.
Other collaborative arrangements should also be facilitated: Health
and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the Department
of Justice, and the Department of Labor all have a stake. A federal
commitment to provide seed funding for private-public partnerships
is needed with careful outreach to communities, schools, foundations,
and the private sector.
· Service Learning needs to be advocated at the national
level so as to build private -public partnerships in support of
Service Learning--as a tool for building common bonds, building
a "sense" of community, and healing inter-group tensions.
Because Service Learning brings together young people from all backgrounds
in pursuit of shared goals, it facilitates intergroup cooperation
and reduces tensions. Backed by a nationwide campaign with a coherent
national voice, Service Learning can be advocated as an integrative
strategy for advancing multiple aims in youth development, civic
education, and character education: civic engagement, the ethic
of service, civic attitudes, a sense of social connection with others,
acceptance of diversity, academic achievement, and perhaps even
reductions in risky behavior.
· A national campaign should be undertaken to promote and
distribute existing guidelines and best practices about Service
Learning, to every school and school district in K-12 education
and to every college and university, with voluntary participation
of principals/deans and teachers/professors invited.
· Improvements should be made in the existing infrastructure
for providing technical assistance and professional development
to teachers, staff, and administrators. Funds are needed for school
improvement at the National, State, and Local levels to support
teacher training, professional development, and technical assistance,
now available largely on a fee-for-service basis, leaving poor school
districts without assistance.
· AmeriCorps programs designed to facilitate Service Learning
should be cultivated, extending the small proportion of AmeriCorps
members now doing service that promotes Service Learning. State
and local agencies should be encouraged to appoint a specialist
in Service Learning, as should each federal agency pursuing Service
· Relevant professional organizations, private foundations,
community organizations, and federally funded centers for educational
reform should be called on to include Service Learning in their
· Both basic and applied research are needed to examine
how Service Learning influences youth development, character and
civic education, and skill and academic learning. Both multi-site
longitudinal studies with long-term follow-ups and short-term assessments
are needed, as is basic research on what fosters prosocial values
and behavior, and civic engagement.
· The capabilities and scope of the infrastructure providing
information about< /U> Service Learning on request should
be enhanced. The Service Learning Clearinghouse (1-800-808-SERV)
should be expanded to give callers, the most up-to-date guidelin
es and best-practices, in addition to abstracts and citations, and
importantly, to provide curriculum examples, information about reflection,
and specific articles detailing methods, legal matters, along with
local referrals for training and technical assistance.
K-12 schools should be encouraged to:
· offer Service Learning as an after-school activity, given
that this is a high-risk time of the day for young people, without
restricting all Service Learning to after-school activities.
· experiment with block scheduling so as to permit more time
for Service Learning activities within the school day. Although
Service Learn ing can be done without such restructuring, longer
blocks of time per class permit more extensive activities, and limiting
it to after-school programs excludes students who must work after
school or tend to family responsibilities.
Institutions of higher education should be encouraged to
· partner with K-12 schools to enable Service Learning undergraduates
to serve in local schools, to he lp give K-12 students Service Learning
· include training in Service Learning within their teacher
educ ation programs (and encourage teacher licensure programs to
include such requirements).
Each school, college, and university should be encouraged to:
· work in collaboration with its students, teachers and staff
to assess the needs of the local community and its existing capacities,
to ensure that any services offered address genuine community needs
and that students collaborate with the community.
· do a self-assessment to determine what service activities
are ongoing in the sch ool to build on these strengths by integrating
the service into a curriculum with regular opportunities for reflection.
· identify a Service Learning coordinator who can help organize
Service Learning activities within and outside the school.
· identify a professor or teacher in each grade or academic
level (or field) already doing Service Learning or interested, as
a faculty resource to be developed.
· partner with at least one community-based organization
offering Service Learning in an "informal" (non-school-based)
curriculum thoughtfully organized and including reflection. Such
"informal" Serv ice Learning that can be part of students'
ongoing education if educational institutions legitimize student
· allocate time in the school day for teachers to prepare
Service Learning activities , to meet with each other, and to collaborate
with outside organizations< U>.
Acts of service are the dues we pay for living in a democracy.
Marian Wright Edelman
A. What is the Need and Why Service Learning?
Inspiring active participation among youth in their communities
can strengthen individual communities, and by extensio n, the American
community. Broadening the web of caring beyond the self, special
interests, and one's own in-group can enable a wider and deeper
commitment to prosocial aims. This proposal argues that a concrete
means of facilitating this, and to revitalize civil society, can
be found in citizen service, and particularly, Service Learning,
as a national strategy for youth development (see Carnegie Council
on Adolescent Development, 1989). It is a strategy defined largely
in terms of character and civic education. It involves working together
with others on equal footing toward the shared aim of contributing
to the common good and can help engender a sense of community among
youth, a crucial factor in youth development.
The sense of connection and belonging. Recent evidence shows that
youth are vulnerable to high -risk behaviors when they experience
a lack of connectedness within their communities (Blum & Rinehart,
1997). Correspondingly, the broader lack of connectedness among
adults in our society--across socioeconomic divides--is often considered
perilous because civic disengagement may indicate a fraying in the
fabric of civil society (Bellah et al., 1985; Elshtain, 1995; Etzioni,
1983, 1993; Rifkin, 1995, 1996, 1997; Putnam, 1995a, 1995b). Studies
of civic engagement vary in measures from surveys about voluntary
participation in the community to voting (Chen, 1992; Verba, Scholzman,
& Brady, 1995), and differences of opinion exist on the levels
of civic disengagement (e.g., Lemann, 1996; Stengel, 1996; Youniss
et al., 1997). Still, there are "warning signs of exhaustion,
cynicism, opportunism, and despair" in American society (Elshtain,
1995), and a lack of civic engagement does not augur well for any
democracy (e.g., Barber, 1984).
Active participation is required for democratic societies to thrive,
and this makes policies designed to facilitate civic engagement
of national interest. Service Learning is such a strategy. A vibrant
civil society exists when people participate in civic and public
affairs, and can identify shared values about the common good, while
celebrating diversity and individual freedom (e.g., Barber, 1992;
Etzioni, 1993, 1997; Rifkin, 1995). This process is part of Service
Learning and derives from its basis in experiential learning (e.g.,
Kendall & Associates, 1990). Active collaboration among students
and teachers can be useful not only in education, but also in youth
development, as suggested at least indirectly by the single, largest
longitudinal research project on youth development to date (Blum
& Rinehart, 1997; Resnick et al., 1997). The results clearly
demonstrate that when adolescents experience a positive sense of
connection--in their neighborhoods and schools, and of course in
their families--they avoid risky health behaviors. When youth are
disenfranchised and disengaged, they are more often involved in
drug use and violence, have an earlier age of sexual debut, and
experience more emotional distress (including suicidal ideation).
Strong and positive social ties--not in gangs--constitute a powerful
force for prevention (Connell, Aber, & Walker, 1993; Elliott,
Wilson, Huizinga, Sampson, Elliott, & Rankin, 1996; Sampson,
Raudenbush, Earls, 1997; National Research Council, 1993; Wilson,
1987, 1991), and the recent research on Service Learning described
here shows that it promotes social connection and engagement.
Relationship-building and community-building. Positive relationships
define the "social capita l" youth need to thrive, and
two distinct, complementary elements of social capital or "relationship
capital" appear to exist (Briggs, 1997). Some positive relationships
provide support, caring, and warmth, supporting this very basic
human need (e.g., Andersen, Reznik, & Chen, 1997; Baumeiester
& Leary, 1995). Some relationships also help youth navigate
the broader social world, with guidance, competence-building experiences,
and networking skills for advancing, doing well in career preparation,
and taking a step up.
The importance of "connectedness" suggested by recent
evidence makes it clear that discovering ways to provide all youth,
irrespective of family circumstance or income, the opportunity to
work together with each other and with adults to build social capital
is warranted. Positive relationships in communities make for greater
collective efficacy (e.g., Sampson et al., 1997) and make communities
work (Wilson, 1987, 1991). Youth benefit both from knowing "successful,
upwardly mobile, mid-life adults" (Chalk & Phillips, 1996,
p. 13), and from caring relationships with adults (Benard, 1995)
and peers (McGuire & Weisz, 1982). Hands-on work with youth
can make a difference in forming such relationships. By involving
youth in collaboration and dialogue, so as to assess community needs
and capacities, and decide jointly on actions that might solve identified
problems, youth can take leadership and effect change. This is the
basis of capacity-building in communities (Kretzmann & McKnight,
1993; Henton, Melville, & Walesh, 1997) and in Service Learning
(e.g., Stephens, 1995).
Increasingly, youth development efforts proceed in this way, emphasizing
youth as "resources" so as to move beyond "deficit"
to "capacity" models that enable youth to build on their
strengths (Checkoway, 1994) and to become an engine for community
renewal, in part by enhancing their civic engagement. If disengagement
reflects not only lack of interest, but also lack of trust in others
(Broder, 1997), in political/civic aspirations, and in leaders (Brehm
& Rahn, 1997; Capella & Jamieson, 1997; Galston, 1996),
then activities conducted within a capacity-building framework,
such as Service Learning, can conceivably begin to address these
Wherever one stands on issues of decline in civic participation,
there is agreement that social capital among youth is imperative,
and depends on the quality of relationships (e.g., Briggs, 1997;
Chalk & Phillips, 1996; Wilson, 1987; 1991). Social capital
can also be conceived in terms of emotional intelligence--the capacity
to relate to others sensitively and competently (Goleman, 1995;
Salovey & Mayer, 1990; see also Cantor & Kilhstrom, 1987).
As such, social capital is multidimensional, but clearly based on
relationships (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993), an assumption that
makes sense in communitarian terms (Etzioni, 1993, 1996; Sandel,
Overcoming intergroup barriers. Capacity-building among youth is
of special value when intergr oup tensions--based on divisions such
as race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gang membership, or
other differences--because it can bring people together toward common
goals. In social-psychological research on intergroup relations
and social identity, it is well known that identifying with a particular
in-group leads to stereotyping out-group members (e.g., Brewer,
1979; Mackie & Hamilton, 1993; Ruscher & Fiske, 1993). So,
when people define themselves more globally--in a way that includes
out-group members in their social identity--this broadened collective
identity decreases their tendency to stereotype and increases their
sense of social "justice" (Brewer, 1996; Gaertner, Dovidio,
Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust, 1993; Marcus-Newhall, Miller, Holtz,
& Brewer, 1993; Huo, Smith, Tyler, & Lind, 1996). Identifying
with a larger community thus has "healing" properties,
and Service Learning permits this, by enabling youth to collaborate
with each other and with adults.
Conceived in terms of race relations, we have long known that busing
youth to integrate schools does not ensure that shared activities
are pursued or friendships forged across racial lines (Brewer &
Miller, 1984; Hewstone, 1986; Pettigrew, in press-1998). Very often
there is voluntary social segregation in schools (Dent, 1993; Tatum,
1997), as elsewhere in society (e.g., Shipler, 1997). However, when
activities explicitly enable youth--and adults--to work together
cooperatively across intergroup boundaries, this can heal tensions
(Hawley & Jackson, 1995; Heath & McLaughlin, 1993; Slavin
& Madden, 1979). Again, Service Learning does this.
In the following pages, research is reviewed showing that Service
Learning fosters youth development--as assessed by a variety of
indicators. At the outset, Service Learning is defined, and types
of Service Learning considered. The comprehensive literature review
follows. Some consideration is then given to the debate about voluntary
or mandatory Service Learning. Then a national strategy for making
Service Learning more widely available to youth throughout the nation--based
on policies that support private-public partnerships--is presented.
Overall, the evidence justifies acting now to make Service Learning
a central part of our national conversation on education, to build
collaborations between educational institutions and communities,
and to give all youth the opportunity to serve.
B. What is Service Learning?
Some basic definitions. Service Learning is a growing pedagogy
that integrates community service in to an organized curriculum
that includes regular opportunities for personal reflection. In
· youth are encouraged to take the lead
· in responding to genuine community needs
· through service that is integrated into a thoughtfully
· and accompanied by regular opportunities for personal
There is more to be said about guidelines, addressed in detail
later, but these four basics in Service Lear ning are widely shared
(derived from ASLER and Wingspread Guidelines; ASLER, 1993; Honnet
& Poulsen, 1989; see also Cairn & Kielsmeier, 1995; Clark,
1993; Gulati-Partee & Finger, 1996; Kielsmeier, 1997; Kinsley,
1997; Kinsley & McPherson, 1995; Jacoby, 1996; Totten &
Pedersen, 1997). Service Learning invites children and youth to
work together and with adults to serve within their own school (or
another school) by tutoring or peer-mentoring, or in the broader
community by working in environmental settings, food banks, community
or senior centers. It offers the opportunity to serve, giving youth
the sense that they can make a difference by using what they have
learned (Kendall & Associates, 1990; Kennedy, 1991; Sagawa &
Halperin, 1993; Wofford, 1994).
There are many inspiring anecdotes that have built up around Service
Learning over recent years, and the research has now begun to catch
up. Although more research is always needed, the existing evidence
in support of Service Learning is compelling. Service Learning is
not a silver bullet. It is a targeted and effective strategy for
youth development that builds on the strengths of youth in the context
of education and service.
Service Learning involves regular opportunities for reflection.
Refection is basic to Service Learning both because of its relevance
to the curriculum into which the service integrated and because
it is personal, giving students the opportunity to think and write
and talk about what they have learned. It also allows students to
express their personal feelings about the difficult conditions they
have observed (e.g., homelessness) and to try to understand them.
When students share their experiences with others, in small, informal
groups, much of the real learning in Service Learning takes place
(Cunningham, 1996; Genzer & Finger, 1996; Hatcher & Bringle,
1996; Harvey, 1996; National Helper's Network, 1991; Silcox, 1993;
Toole & Toole, 1995; Wells, 1997). One-to-one reflection may
also occur, so that youth less likely to speak in a group are able
to communicate with another participant. Journal-writing is also
an option. Importantly, reflection enables students think through
how to improve their efforts to serve, to better address community
needs, and to use existing community and school resources more wisely.
This involves active negotiating, planning, and evaluating. It also
helps students better understand curricular materials, solidifying
Refection also helps establish new relationships between Service
Learning students, and with adults and staff--because of its honest,
supportive, collaborative nature. Indeed, a major aim of reflection
is to foster caring relationships while serving the community competently
(National Helper's Network, 1991). Such open dialogue can facilitate
greater caring (e.g., Noddings, 1994; Tatum, 1992) because it requires
respectful listening and the expression of one's own perceptions
and feelings, which can be transformative (see Tirozzi & Uro,
1997). It is practice in the art caring, which is likely contribute
to emotional intelligence, youth resilience, and social capital
(Benard, 1995; Briggs, 1997; Bullard, 1996; Duvall, 1994; Noddings,
1988; Goleman, 1995; Rutter, 1987).
Ideally, reflection includes participants from a variety of racial,
ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, so that it reduces barriers
and builds bonds between students who might not otherwise engage
in dialogue, nor see commonalities, because they are from different
backgrounds and/or because of prejudice. When students come to "identify
with" the act of being of service, thus becoming closer to
others also serving, as well as with those served, they become more
likely to engage in perspective-taking and experience an enhanced
sense of connection with others. Meaningful communication between
students about their effort to make a difference also increases
social discourse on service at this micro-level, paving the way
for more broad-based civic dialogue over time.
Of course, there are different levels at which reflection can be
implemented--after the service, both before and after the service,
or systematically throughout the service including before and after.
Reflection in advance is important because it allows students to
assess community needs, along with community capacities, so that
they can actively design and implement services in the context of
their curriculum. Without reflection in advance, this is not possible.
Reflection throughout offers the opportunity to air concerns and
make service corrections mid-stream. Reflection afterward enables
greater understanding and closure, and celebration of achievements.
Service Learning is integrated into an organized curriculum. Service
Learning is designed to enrich a curriculum, to make the curriculum
relevant, and thus to support the academic knowledge acquired in
the curriculum, while learning real-world skills. In Service Learning,
students "learn by doing," building new competencies and
sometimes even learning marketable expertise, which makes Service
Learning resemble school-to-work and internship programs, that is,
when focused on service and including a curricular and reflection
basis (Gomez, 1996; Silcox, 1995; see also Rifkin, 1997). Because
Service Learning is designed to make didactic material relevant
to solving real-world problems, the curriculum component is essential.
Service Learning taps higher order problem-solving skills, helping
children and youth to use their knowledge in new ways, and supports
the curriculum by involving the "whole student" in the
learning process with all his or her senses.
The curriculum component of Service Learning is what gives Service
Learning meaning for students--helping to ensure that students are
not simply logging in community service hours or filling a gap in
their resume. It shows how service relates to learning and suggests
ways to use knowledge gained to address social problems. Conceptions
of Service Learning have evolved over more than a decade (Kendall
& Associates, 1990) and continue to do so (e.g., Dugan, 1997),
but a relevant and organized curriculum integration is essential.
Numerous curriculum examples are available at all grade and academic
levels (e.g., Cairn & Coble, 1993; Cairn & Kielsmeier, 1995;
Cofer, 1997; Developmental Studies Center, 1996; Kinsley & McPherson,
1995; Jacoby, 1996; LaPlante & Kinsley, 1994; Lewis, 1994 National
Helper's Network, 1995; National Youth Leadership Council, 1994;
Stephens, 1995; Totten & Pedersen, 1997), suggesting excellent
practices for all ages based on a wide variety of service activities.
And new curricular examples continue to become available.
Some other distinctions. Service Learning:
· is not simply community service
· is used "formally" in schools, colleges, and
· is also be used "informally" in community-based
· invokes an atmosphere in which everyone is a learner and
· is neither the "privileged" helping the poor
nor the "poor" repaying a societal debt
· is social responsibility for all regardless of socioeconomic
· need not be mandatory in education, but may be available
as an opportunity
In the latter vein, it has even been argued that Service Learning
is an exercise in civic participation and liberty (Barber, 1992).
When multiple options for Service Learning activities are available,
or when the experience is entirely voluntary, so that children and
youth (and their parents) are able to opt out, there is little basis
for worry about concerns such as "forced servitude." Critics
of Service Learning have clearly raised these issues, and poorly
implemented Service Learning efforts should be improved so as to
emphasize active student decision-making and collaboration (with
parental and community voices heard as well). But the language of
"forced servitude" flies in the face of basic definitions
of Service Learning and thus should not be problematic. More appears
on the debate concerning Service Learning requirements vs. options
in subsequent pages, but suffice it to say for now that proper implementation
can resolve such concerns.
Importantly, Service Learning also involves mutual exchange between
"helper" and "recipient," as noted, enabling
students of all ages to see that they have much to learn from each
other and from working together in real-world situations with people
in difficult circumstances and trying to make a difference--with
the guidance and encouragement of teachers, professors, and staff.
The emphasis on mutual exchange is especially crucial in the relationship
between the Service Learning student and those served. To ensure
that the service is responsive to a real community need, members
of the community must be asked about their own needs, and the services
tailored accordingly. The strengths and special capacities of those
served, which they might want to contribute as well, also are important
to identify. A crucial factor is to determine whether or not a given
service is wanted so as to make sure to address a genuine need.
Of course, service must also be delivered with caring and respect
for the dignity of those served, and a similar caring and respect
is encouraged between teachers and students, staff and students,
teachers and staff, and so on.
When mutual exchange is present in Service Learning, its positive
outcomes are more likely to occur (see Scales & Blyth, 1997).
When those served are respected and their own capacities acknowledged,
a collaborative atmosphere emerges in which everyone is a learner
and everyone a beneficiary (see Ayers & Ray, 1995), a matter
captured well by an Australian Aboriginal woman (cited in Weah &
Wegner, 1997), "If you are coming over to help me, don't bother.
But if you're coming over because you think your liberation is bound
up with mine, let's work together." Students must bring an
attitude of mutual respect to the tasks of Service Learning, and
build trust among themselves, as well as with educators and staff,
and with those served (Ayers & Ray, 1995).
Of course, people can serve their communities at any age, and there
are numerous pathways for serving, with Service Learning only one
such pathway. It could, however, become the most accessible pathway
of all--if it were to be made available as an option to every student
in every grade and academic level throughout American schooling,
as integral both to K-12 and to higher education.
C. Examples of Service Learning
Service Learning can involve service in the broader community,
in the student's own school or in another school. Either way, it
is integrated into a curriculum with reflection. There are numerous
curricular examples, as noted, as well as numerous possible service
activities (e.g., Lewis, 1991, 1995).
Tutoring. Ongoing problems in schools and communities can interfere
with teachers' ability to gain and keep students' attention, to
move beyond discipline problems, and to provide kids with the one-to-one
experience most useful especially in teaching reading. One-to-one
attention is needed in learning to read, and especially if a child
is not read to at home and does not read (or try to read) at home,
this is needed elsewhere. Older students can tutor younger ones
as Service Learning tutors--in reading, in math, in computer literacy,
or another subject area. The special attention they receive can
motivate children to participate more actively in their own learning,
often simply because they like being with an older student (Developmental
Studies Center, 1996). It can also invoke interest, effort, and
persistence, as well as success, rewarding for the Service Learning
student as well.
Service Learning students as tutors for younger children hold special
promise because they can address educational deficits and act as
role-models for young children at the same time, showing that it
is "cool" to know things and to be academically successful
(Raspberry, 1997a). Experience with older students as tutors may
also suggest to those tutored that it is "cool" to make
a contribution to another person's life. The experience is clearly
mutual. Teaching is often the best way to learn, so tutors gain
in this way as well. Tutoring in reading can obviously be incorporated
into English courses or a variety of other courses, while tutoring
in computer literacy can be part of science and computer science,
and math tutoring part of arithmetic, algebra, or geometry (Stephens,
1995). Of course, tutoring can also be part of an "informal"
curriculum coordinated by a community-based organization. As with
much Service Learning, it can take place either during the school
day or in after-school programs, a crucial gap for many students
(Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1992; Inlong, 1998),
and may take place on school grounds or elsewhere.
Given that there is an ongoing national literacy campaign involving
reading tutors, another involving computer and technology literacy,
and a still another initiative in mathematics education, these initiatives
can provide a framework for involving large numbers of youth, trained
as tutors in Service Learning, to participate in addressing these
pressing needs, while reaping benefits for their own education and
development as well. Importantly, Service Learning in the form of
tutoring, can be of special value in helping others to learn reading,
math, and computers because of the one-to-one attention often needed
in learning each of these skills. In learning to read, in particular,
evidence suggests that a crucial element is being read to and reading
aloud oneself with another person who is a skilled reader (MacIver,
Reuman, & Main, 1995)--who helps in pronouncing words, in grasping
meaning, and in practicing reading (National Research Council, 1998).
Service Learning, informed by this knowledge, thus offers a viable
vehicle for these tutoring initiatives.
Peer-mentoring. Peer-mentoring or "buddy" programs, in
which older kids are "buddies" to younger ones, provide
younger kids with an enhanced sense of connection with another person
who can become significant to them, who is available to talk to,
learn from, and build a relationship with (Developmental Studies
Center, 1996; National Helper's Network, 1995; Switzer, Simmons,
Dew, Regalski, & Wang, 1995). Younger children usually feel
honored to spend time with older ones, making participation feel
like a privilege, so long as the attitude of the buddy is not condescending,
and the buddy sees the younger student as being on equal footing.
Pairing younger kids with older ones can help younger kids feel
less alienated, building a sense of belonging and trust. Older kids,
too, often feel honored to be asked to help out with someone younger,
which can be empowering and competence-building, and can have a
pivotal impact on what older kids come to believe matters to them.
There can also be learning components to buddy systems, as in reading
play or math play or other games, while retaining the emphasis on
connection and caring rather than on teaching. Peer-mentoring can
be integrated into social studies, civics, history, and psychology,
or into a curriculum at a community-based organization. And to the
degree that peer-mentoring involves some tutoring, or vice versa,
a dual purpose may be served by either.
Environmental projects. There are numerous examples of Service
Learning activities that can take place in the broader community.
For example, environmental conservation projects may be undertaken
in parks, environmental work sites, animal-protection centers, or
recycling centers; and neighborhoods and school grounds can also
be beautified with clean-ups, gardens planted, and so on. These
activities can be integrated into general science, biology, chemistry,
or environmental science courses, or into a curriculum in a community-based
organization on principles of conservation, recycling, reducing
environmental toxicity, and clean-up.
Social service projects. A variety of social service activities
can take place in the b roader community, in social service agencies
or elsewhere, such as community centers, senior centers, day-care
centers, day treatment centers, food distribution centers for the
homeless or homebound, and community policing centers. Again, neighborhoods
and school grounds can be beautified. These activities can be integrated
into social studies, civics, American history, psychology, or sociology
courses, or into a variety of curricula in a community-based organization,
focusing for example on growing old or on homelessness.
D. What Does Service Learning Accomplish?
Service Learning offers a concrete strategy for youth development,
conceived in terms of central elements of both char acter and civic
education. Even though the fields of Service Learning, character
education, civic education, and youth development are distinct,
Service Learning facilitates character education (Institute for
Global Ethics, 1996; see also Berman et al., 1997; Boston, in press-1998)
as well as civic education (Boston, 1997; Clark, 1993; Brandell
& Hinck, 1997; Youniss & Yates, 1997), and should thus be
a prominent part of conversations in these fields, as in youth development,
where increasingly it is (National Research Council, 1997).
Persuasive research findings have amassed on Service Learning from
three major, national studies (Astin & Sax, in press-1998; Eyler,
Giles, & Braxt on, 1997; Melchior, 1997; see also previous reviews
Alt & Medrich, 1994; Conrad & Hedin, 1982; Scales &
Blyth, 1997), which show, along with other studies, that Service
Learning is associated with significant pre-test/post-test increases
·The Ethic of Service
·Acceptance of Diversity
·Protection against Risky Behavior
Research on the effects of Service Learning, of course, is not
about testing individual student achievement to determine course
grades or other academic decisions. The research is done at the
aggregate level and provides evidence about what impact this teaching
and learning strategy tends to have. As in any research, participants
are free to choose not to participate (with parental consent required
for minors), and participants' responses are confidential or anonymous.
The point of reviewing research on the effects of Service Learning,
as an educational strategy, is to present the case that it facilitates
youth development in ways widely held to be desirable while doing
no harm to student achievement. Reports of such findings have no
implications for how achievement standards should be set or for
how student testing should proceed, nationally or locally. Hence,
the argument that policies should be supported that increase Service
Learning opportunities for students should not be embroiled in debates
about national educational standards, a matter thoroughly enmeshed
with national testing (Ravitch, 1995).
Of course, existing research is still fairly new and has its limitations.
For example, even though Service Learning clearly involves curriculum
and reflection components, and a more sustained and concerted service
effort than a one-shot deal of a few hours (Danzig & Stanton,
1983), quality of implementation is not often included as a measure
in research designs. For obvious reasons, all research also makes
use of self-report instruments because such measures provide the
most straightforward way of tapping effects of interest. Continued
research is needed, especially focused on well-implemented Service
Learning, on experiments that randomly assign students to Service
Learning or to other pedagogical approaches within the same (or
comparable) courses, and on large-scale longitudinal studies. Nonetheless,
the existing evidence is quantitative and impressive.
First, the nature of each of the three national, longitudinal studies
is described in brief:
The Brandeis study (Melchior, 1997) focused on middle schools and
high schools, and 17 sites chosen because Service Learning at these
sites was well-implemented. It had been in operation for more than
one year, was integrated into the curriculum, and was accompanied
by reflection. The sites were 10 high schools and 7 middle schools
representing urban, suburban, and rural communities, while 4 sites
featured at-risk youth. Approximately 1,000 Service Learning and
comparison students completed both pre-test and post-test measures
(with most developed by the Search Institute in Minneapolis), and
the service included more than 60 hours of service per semester.
All effects reported held for male and female participants, for
white and minority students, and for at-risk, educationally disadvantaged,
and economically disadvantaged students, as well as for their more
privileged counterparts. The study found no negative impacts and
demonstrated positive impacts reflecting nearly every one of the
effects of Service Learning just noted, as indicated in the interim
report (Melchior, 1997).
There are two national studies in higher education. The Vanderbilt
study (Eyler et al., 1997) involved 20 colleges and universities
and over 1500 students in a variety of geographical locations in
both private and public universities and also small, liberal arts
colleges. All Service Learning was directly integrated into a course
curriculum in an Arts & Science course rather than being part
of an internship, fieldwork, or professional school course (although
these forms were also studied). Service Learning students chose
this option (n = 616) and were compared on pre-test and post-test
measures with control students who elected a different option. Effects
emerged for what the authors termed citizenship confidence, values,
and skills, and perceptions of social justice, all characterized
below within the relevant section.
The other national study in higher education, the UCLA study (Astin
& Sax, in press-1998; Sax et al., 1996), involved 42 sites and
over 2,300 students participating in some kind of community service
(including over 470 explicitly identified by their institutions
as participating in Service Learning), and a comparison sample of
over 1,100 nonparticipants. No procedure was used to gauge how well
the Service Learning per se was implemented, leaving students doing
free-standing community service, rather than curriculum-integrated
service, in the Service Learning sample. Hence, this "noise"
in the evaluation is compromising, but the advantage is the large
number of sites and students.
To provide a sense of the range of all the studies to be reviewed,
the table presented next classifies them by their type and scope.
The studies are divided into national surveys, smaller scale surveys,
and smaller-scale experiments as well as according to the educational
level of the students involved--middle/high school and higher education.
Certain unique advantages of the smaller-scale surveys and experiments
account for their inclusion.
MIDDLE SCHOOL/HIGH SCHOOL
Melchior (1997): "Brandeis Study"
Follman & Muldoon (1997): Florida Public Schools
Philliber & Allen (1992): Teen Outreach
Rutter & Newmann (1989)
Conrad & Hedin (1982)
Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik (1982)
Youniss, McLellan, & Yates (1997)
Eyler, Giles, & Braxton (1997): "Vanderbilt Study"
Astin & Sax (in press) and Sax et al. (1996): UCLA Study"
Sax & Alexander (1997)
Calabrese & Schumer (1986)
Cognetta & Sprinthall (1978)
Giles & Eyler (1994)
Yates & Youniss (1996)
Batchelder & Root (1994)
Cohen & Kinsey (1994)
Eyler & Halteman (1981)
Hamilton & Zeldin (1987)
Switzer, Simmons, Dew, Regalski, & Wang (1995)
Markus, Howard, & King (1993)
And now, the findings:
Engaging youth with their communities. Civic engagement is of the
essence in youth deve lopment, as discussed, and if Service Learning
is a strategy for youth development, it should enhance civic engagement.
It conveys that each student is valued and has something to offer,
and should counteract powerlessness (Kennedy, 1991). The oft quoted
statement of Martin Luther King, "everyone is great because
everyone can serve," is a call to service as civic engagement
(Schine & Halsted, 1997).
In the Brandeis study in middle schools and high schools, Service
Learning students showed enhanced civic efficacy or engagement in
terms of their self-reports of community service leadership (Melchior,
1997). Compared with students not participating, they showed pre-test/post-test
increases in self-reported agreement with items on this measure
such as, "I believe that I personally can make a difference
in my community," "I enjoy doing something that will benefit
others in the community," and "I am aware of needs in
my community that I can do something about." Thus, the study
shows that Service Learning among middle and high schoolers is associated
with increased civic engagement. The strength of the study is its
multi-site, national focus. Its weakness is that it is correlational,
meaning that the effects of self-selecting into Service Learning
courses cannot be fully accounted for or ruled out, thus requiring
caution in drawing conclusions. On the other hand, for many student
participants, they had little explicit choice about participating
because Service Learning was simply the process of teaching and
learning their teacher had chosen, a fact that mitigates self-selection
problems to an extent, as does taking pre-existing differences between
groups into account in analyses.
The Vanderbilt study in higher education (Eyler et al., 1994) provides
strong support for increased civic efficacy. The study found significant
pre-test/post-test increases among Service Learning students, relative
to control students, in ratings of their personal efficacy in influencing
community issues, and ratings of the community's capacity to solve
its own problems. Relative to control students, they also showed
significant increases in their ratings of the value they placed
on trying to influence policy, and in their ratings of their belief
that societal problems can be changed by public policy.
Similarly, the UCLA study in higher education (Sax et al., 1996)
indicated significant results for civic engagement (Astin &
Sax, in press-1998; Sax et al., 1996). Service Learning students,
as compared with nonparticipants, showed significant increases in
their reports of commitment to influencing the political structure
of society and social values. They also reported more disagreement
with the statement: "Realistically, an individual can do little
to change society," and reported enhanced leadership ability
as well. Both higher education studies again involved self-selection
and thus pose interpretational challenges, even with pre-test differences
controlled statistically, because this does not rule out all potential
causes. Still, the expanse of the studies and their comparable findings
make them compelling.
Rectifying self-selection problems, one of the few experimental
studies in the field randomly assigned high school students to Service
Learning or not, via a placement in a local government office for
one semester (Hamilton & Zeldin, 1987). Random assignment allowed
definitive conclusions about causal impact, and the results indicated
significant increases in their self-reported competence in doing
political work, their self-reports of respect for government, and
their self-reported belief that government is responsive to people's
needs. Analyses controlled for a variety of pre-test differences
that may have survived the random assignment, and the data thus
make it clear that increases in political efficacy did result from
this Service Learning. Also, the students permitted to ask questions
of their sponsors during legislative sessions in the government
settings in which they were placed reported deriving more from their
experience, suggesting a special role for being actively engaged
in the service experience. Although the "content" of the
service in a government setting may in itself have changed attitudes
about government, the effects are impressive, and demonstrate enhanced
In another experimental study, this time in higher education (Markus,
Howard, & King, 1993; see also Alt & Medrich, 1994), undergraduates
in a political science class were randomly assigned to a section
of the course in which they participated in 20 hours of community
service or not, in one of a variety of settings. Results showed
that these students, relative to nonparticipating students in the
same class, were more likely to report crediting the course with
increasing their sense of political efficacy and with leading them
to believe they can make a difference in the world. Random assignment
again allows the causal conclusion to be drawn that Service Learning
produced the effect, and the numerous service options available
to students in this study de-couples the effect of increased political
efficacy from placement in a government setting.
A related study in higher education required a fieldwork placement
as for all students, although all were social-service majors and
self-selected in this sense (Giles & Eyler, 1994). The results
showed significant pre-test/post-test increases in these students
self-reported belief people can make a difference in society, that
is, in their civic or political efficacy. They also showed significantly
higher ratings of the importance of influencing politics and ratings
of aspiring to become a community leader. Finally, they showed significant
increases in their self-reported belief that community involvement
is important and that all people should get involved. The study
used no control group, nor sophisticated analyses; it did, however,
require Service Learning, allowing stronger conclusions in this
sense, except for the social-service-major sample.
In a different kind of study, using a quasi-experimental design
(Calabrese & Schumer, 1986), 9th graders with behavioral problems
were randomly assigned to a condition in which they participated
in community service for 10 weeks or not, and then if they did,
were allowed to "decide" to continue the service for another
10 weeks (or not). The results showed that students who continued
their service showed significant decreases in their self-reports
of social alienation relative to nonparticipating students, who
actually showed slight increases in social alienation. The "choice
factor" made the design quasi-experimental and less than ideal
because continuing students were this much more committed already.
Still, the results are provocative.
A recent literature review examined a set of long-term, longitudinal
studies to determine how service involvement is related to civic
participation later in life. Although not specific to Service Learning,
the study concluded that high school students who took part in community
service (or school governance) were more likely than nonparticipants
to be engaged in community organizations and in voting 15 (or more)
years later (Youniss, McLellan, & Yates, 1997). Self-selection
effects prevent firm conclusions, but this evidence makes it clear
that youth engagement does differentiate adults in terms of civic
engagement, a provocative finding indeed.
Inspiring students to take responsibility and to work together
in a self-disciplined way to find solutions to social and environmental
problems that they are able to identify, helps them to find their
"voice" and to become active in their own learning. When
youth feel personally invested in this way, it allows them to identify
with their experiences, internalize them (see Deci, 1995; Deci &
Ryan, 1986), and achieve positive outcomes in so doing. Indeed,
the greatest benefits accrue from Service Learning when a sense
of connection with others is balanced with support for individual
autonomy (e.g., Allen et al., 1994), making each participant's "voice"
crucial (Kielsmeier, 1997; see also Chalk & Phillips, 1996;
Developing the ethic of service. Service Learning also appears
to provide a superb vehicle for promoting the ethic of service (Coles,
1993). The ethic of contributing to the common good--one's own community,
the broader human community, the global environment--involves caring
enough about everyone's survival that it serves others across intergroup
boundaries. It involves the ethic of caring about others (Noddings,
1988; see also Benard, 1995), and the basic human need for human
connection (Andersen et al., 1997). It also involves a commitment
to service and volunteerism that is potentially lifelong (Conrad
& Hedin, 1982; Melchior, 1997; Youniss et al, 1997).
The Brandeis study in middle and high schools showed that among
Service Learning students over 90% reported believing students should
be encouraged to participate in community service (although not
required), and also believing that they had been able to be helpful
in their communities (Melchior, 1997). These students reported being
30% more likely to do volunteer work over 6 months, providing 2
to 6 times more volunteer hours than nonparticipants (an average
of 100 hours vs. 37.5 hours). Hence, participation in Service Learning
appears to encourage voluntary service. In addition, the measure
of community service leadership, described previously in discussing
civic engagement, included an item that directly assessed the ethic
of service, "I am committed to community service both now and
later in life." The item was not analyzed separately, but the
overall measure revealed a significant impact.
An early study in 27 school-based programs also suggested that
Service Learning is associated with increased reports of interest
in volunteerism in the future (Conrad & Hedin, 1982). In addition,
the evidence already described showing that voluntary service in
high school predicts actual community involvement 15 years later
(Youniss et al., 1997) suggests that such activities may well engender
a service ethic. Although self-selection is again a problem, the
results do converge.
The Vanderbilt study in higher education (Eyler et al., 1997) provides
similar evidence. Analyses controlling for pre-test measures clearly
showed that Service Learning undergraduates were significantly more
likely than control students to report that citizens should volunteer
in community service and even to report that service should be a
requirement in school. Relative to control students, they also reported
placing increased personal value on volunteering and also on having
a career that involves helping others, covarying out pre-test differences.
Hence, although self-selection warrants caution, the data show increases
in the ethic of service.
The UCLA study in higher education (Astin & Sax, in press-1998;
Sax et al., 1996) also supports this conclusion. At post-test, participating
students showed significantly more reported commitment to helping
others in difficulty, to participating in community action programs,
and to being involved in environmental clean-up activities, while
controlling pre-test differences.
In a small-scale study (without a control group; Giles & Eyler,
1994), college students engaged in service in a fieldwork requirement
for their social-service major and were significantly more likely
at post-test than at pre-test to report the intention to do volunteer
work the following semester.
Importantly, this finding was replicated in a nationwide, long-term,
longitudinal study of than 12,000 college freshmen beginning in
1985 (see Sax & Alexander, 1997), following up with them when
they were seniors in 1989, and again 5 years later in 1994. The
results showed that community service participation as an undergraduate
strongly predicted reports of activism and volunteerism in the 5
years following graduation, even when statistically controlling
freshman-year predispositions toward service. Although self-selection
can be problematic even when statistically controlling pre-test
indices, the weight of the evidence showing an enhanced ethic of
service is compelling.
An experimental study (Markus et al., 1993) in which college students
were randomly assigned to Service Learning or to a control condition,
showed significant pre-test/post-test increases (relative to controls)
in the value students reported placing on pursuing a career that
helps others, and on volunteering to help people in need. It also
showed significant increases in their reported belief that adults
should give some time for good of their community or country, and
in their report of crediting their Service Learning course for strengthening
their intention to contribute to charities and to serve others in
need. The experimental design demonstrates definitively that Service
Learning can cause students to develop an ethic of service.
Enhancing civic attitudes. Socializing citizenship values is at
the basis of civic education (McLeod, Horowitz, & Evaland, 1995),
and Service Learning appears to facilitate such values. Service
Learning may foster civic values in part because it relies heavily
on active learning (Barnett, 1996; Finken, 1996; Morse, 1996; Tyler,
1990). It introduces students to a participatory form of education,
in which they learn through experience (Clark, 1993; Gulati-Partee
& Finger, 1996; Kendall & Associates, 1990; Kinsley &
McPherson, 1995). Students guide their own learning, work cooperatively
with others, problem-solve, negotiate mutually acceptable solutions,
resolve conflicts peacefully, make joint decisions, and take action,
in teamwork--all basic skills needed in democratic affairs (Quigley,
1997; Tyack, 1997; Hart, 1989; MacLeod, Horowitz, & Evaland,
1995; see also Center for Civic Education, 1994). Of course, a social
action model of civic education does not provide the only viable
definition. But working together in cooperative efforts that are
mutually defined by students is part of well-implemented Service
Learning and has clear relevance to civic education, even if democratic
processes to not appear to students to characterize the school at
large. Such cooperative activity also happens to be part of effective
functioning in workplaces, and it is of value in this respect as
well (on vocational Service Learning, see Gomez, 1996; Silcox, 1995).
Of central interest here, a core element of civic attitudes is social
responsibility (Banaszak, Hartoonian, Leming, 1997; Brandell &
Hinck, 1997; Derringer & Kattef, 1997; Kielsmeier, 1997; Kurtzburg
& Fougnan, 1997; Youniss et al, 1997), and the data suggest
this is facilitated by Service Learning.
The Brandeis study in middle and high schools (Melchior, 1997)
clearly shows enhanced civic attitudes in terms of a self-report
measure of personal and social responsibility. The measure included
a variety of item s involving helping other people in need, protecting
the environment (e.g., recycling), and being aware of and active
in school, community, and state issues. Respondents indicated how
responsible they felt--and also how everyone should feel--to engage
in relevant actions. Participating students showed positive, statistically
significant pre-test/post-test increases, relative to nonparticipants,
in their reported perceptions of personal and social responsibility.
This same measure, originally developed and used in research on
27 school-based programs, yielded the same results in this earlier
research (Conrad & Hedin, 1982). The authors of a recent literature
review--showing that service in high school continues 15 years into
adulthood--have in fact interpreted this evidence as suggesting
that the experience promotes the construction of "civic identity,"
a sense of a duty to take part in civic affairs (Youniss et al.,
1997). In another early study of 8 school-based community service
initiatives (Rutter & Newmann, 1989), the findings indicated
that increases in civic responsibility do not always occur, but
when they do, the process of reflection tends to be key. Of course,
self-selection effects again warrants caution.
In the Vanderbilt study in higher education (Eyler et al., 1997),
the evidence similarly shows increased civic attitudes and values.
Students in Service Learning courses showed significant pre-test/post-test
increases, relative to nonparticipants, in their reported skills
in political participation and in issue-identification, even when
controlling pre-test indices. These students also became more likely
to report attributing social problems to systemic factors.
The UCLA higher education study (Astin & Sax, in press-1998;
Sax et al., 1996) yielded the same kinds of findings. After serving,
students were significantly more likely than nonparticipants to
report changes during college in their understanding of community
problems and the nation's problems, in their ability to work cooperatively
with others, and in their skills in conflict resolution and in thinking
critically. Thus, increases in civic values have been quite clearly
demonstrated, although self-selection effects again argue for caution.
In an experiment with college students (Markus et al., 1993), students
randomly assigned to Service Learning were significantly more likely
than were control students to report crediting the course for heightening
their sense of social responsibility--e.g., their belief that helping
those in need is one's social responsibility. These students were
also significantly more than control students to report having reconsidered
their own values and attitudes during the course, and acquired greater
awareness of society's problems. In an experiment with high school
students (Hamilton & Zeldin, 1987), students assigned to Service
Learning in a government office, relative to controls, showed significantly
higher reports of impact on their knowledge of local government
(although the explicit content of their placement must be noted).
This solid experimental evidence thus demonstrates that the experience
can produce enhanced civic attitudes and civic knowledge.
A quasi-experimental study assessed intensive Service Learning
in a small sample of college students, who did 6 hours of community
service per week for two semesters over 2 years, integrated into
4 different academic courses, and used international understanding
as an index of civic knowledge (Myers-Lipton, 1996/7). The results
indicated significantly increased scores on a self-report measure
of international understanding among Service Learning students relative
to controls (engaged in volunteerism but no course work or in no
service at all). The small sample and self-selection suggest caution,
but there is again a clear association.
Cultivating a sense of social connection. The Brandeis study in
middle and high schools (Melchior, 1997) showed that, among Service
Learning students, 75% reported having developed at least one positive
personal relationship in their experience, generally with another
student or with someone served. Moreover, 82% of the participating
community organizations reported that community members developed
more positive attitudes toward youth based on their work. A smaller
study involving 8 school-based service initiatives showed significant
increases among participating students in their ratings of the availability
of opportunities for productive relationships and for feeling appreciated
by others, such as in being able to earn a child's trust (Rutter
& Newmann, 1989). Significantly higher ratings of perceived
social competence were also found. Overall, these data clearly highlight
relationship building in Service Learning (Scales & Blyth, 1997).
In fact, when students are asked about what was important to them
in their Service Learning experiences, they often cited particular
relationships with people with whom they served in identifying what
had the most impact on them (Conrad & Hedin, 1989).
Importantly, the Vanderbilt study in higher education (Eyler et
al., 1994) explicitly demonstrated that Service Learning students
scored significant higher at post-test than at pre-test, relative
to students not participating, in their self-reports of having a
sense of community connectedness, of their openness to multiple
points of view, and of their belief that resolving social injustice
in society should be a priority (on a social justice measure), controlling
for pre-test perceptions. They also showed significantly increased
scores on a self-report measure of perspective-taking, that is,
in the ability to place the self in the position of the other, as
compared with control students. The UCLA study also showed significant
increases in reported social self-confidence (Sax et al., 1996).
And, in an experiment in higher education (Markus et al., 1993),
students randomly assigned to Service Learning, rather than to another
pedagogy, were significantly more likely to report crediting the
class for increasing their orientation toward others and away from
the self. Given random assignment in the latter study, Service Learning
can clearly produce enhanced social connectedness.
Indications are that perspective-taking goes hand in hand with
empathy (e.g., Batson, 1991; Berman et al., 1997). Hence, the increases
in perspective-taking in the Vanderbilt study, and related findings,
may be suggestive of increased empathy based on Service Learning
as well. And because empathy has been shown to mediate prosocial
behavior (Batson, 1991), the results are even suggestive of increased
prosocial behavior, although such claims exceed the present data.
In one supportive study, however, college students in Service Learning
courses were asked to write reflections--in response to hypothetical
problems--which were then classified, using content-coding, on a
variety of dimensions, and the results showed significant pre-test/post-test
increases in empathic reasoning scores (Batchelder & Root, 1994).
This finding corroborates perspective-taking evidence from the Vanderbilt
study, among others, and draws the empathy link in Service Learning.
In this study, students' written reflections also showed more prosocial
decision-making, again based on content-coding. With all due caution
as regards self-selection and the lack of a control group, this
study provides support for an association between Service Learning
and enhanced perspective-taking, empathy, and prosocial values.
Related evidence exists from a study of high school students participating
in a course on community justice and working in a soup kitchen (as
a requirement), who were also asked to write reflections, this time
about their experiences. The essays were coded for the extent to
which students linked their specific experiences to something beyond
that reality (Yates & Youniss, 1996a). Although there was no
control group, nearly 45% of students' first written reflections
dealt with those served as individuals rather than as stereotypes
and referred to seeing themselves (and all people) as similar to
those served. In addition, pre-test/post-test changes indicated
that students' written reflections dealt increasingly with awareness
of injustice in the other's situation and the need for social change,
leading the authors to conclude that the service involved acquiring
a more nuanced (in the authors' terms, transcendent) interpretation
of life events and circumstances, and an expanded social identity
(or "civic" identity) including these others. Indeed,
one of the experiments in higher education (Markus et al., 1993)
showed pre-test/post-test increases in participants, relative to
controls, in reports of the value they placed on working toward
equal opportunity, which provides experimental evidence that this
kind of caring about others is enhanced by Service Learning participation.
In terms of perspective-taking, other research has suggested that
children with better perspective-taking skills are more likely to
have close friendships, as compared with those without such skills
(McGuire & Weirs, 1982), implying that caring relationships
among young people involve perspective-taking, which may be true
in Service Learning as well, a matter worthy of continued research.
Indeed, a small study of social-service majors in college--in a
required Service Learning course (Giles & Eyler, 1994)--showed
that nearly all participants, on an open-ended measure, reported
a personal involvement with a particular person (or various people)
they served. A related, quasi-experimental study, in which undergraduates
were randomly assigned to Service Learning and then allowed to choose
whether or not to continue it for a longer period (Calabrese &
Schumer, 1986), also showed that longer-serving students were more
likely to report having formed new relationships with other students
in the process.
This research highlights relationships developed in Service Learning.
It is important because research on character education in schools
has shown that when the relationships youth experience in school
lead them to perceive the school as a caring community--in which
they feel cared for and appreciated--this mediates the increases
in prosocial values that may emerge based on character-education
interventions (Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1997; Solomon,
Watson, Battistich, Schaps, & Delucchi, 1992). This evidence
shows the crucial role schools can play in offering caring environments
for youth (see also Berman et al., 1997; Dieringer & Kattef,
1997; Noddings, 1987, 1988), and supports evidence from large-scale
longitudinal research showing that adolescents' sense of connectedness
within school (and community and family) serves as a significant
protective factor against risky behavior and emotional distress
(Resnick et al., 1997).
The bulk of this research implies an increased collective identity
among youth in Service Learning. Interestingly, basic research in
social psychology has shown that forming broader, superordinate,
social identities that include "the other" reduces intergroup
bias and facilitates a belief in social justice and the making of
just decisions (Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust,
1993; Gaertner, Mann, Murrell, & Dovidio, 1989; Gaertner, Mann,
Dovidio, Murrell, & Pomare, 1990; Huo et al, 1996). At its best,
Service Learning fosters a caring community and new relationships
(e.g., Calabrese & Schumer, 1986; Switzer et al., 1995)--with
teachers, service professionals, community members, and other students.
It offers youth new models of self-other relationships, likely to
be central to character education (Berman et al., 1997; see also
Andersen et al., 1997). It also makes use of some of the most powerful
learning devices known to the behavioral sciences--learning by observation
and learning by doing (Bandura, 1977, 1986), enabling it to be what
teacher John Ruggeberg refers to as "character education with
In this vein, an experiment in higher education addressing character
education in terms of moral reasoning randomly assigned students
to a Service Learning section of a philosophy course on ethics or
to a different section taught by the same professor (Boss, 1994).
The results showed significantly larger pre-test/post-test advances
in their level of moral reasoning among participating students relative
to comparison students. Among Service Learning students at post-test,
51% showed post-conventional, principled reasoning, while the figure
was 14% at pre-test for everyone. At post-test, the control group
remained unchanged at 13%. This measure of post-conventional, principled
reasoning taps both social justice and "caring" and is
clearly prosocial. Change in moral reasoning among Service Learning
students was significantly related to their class participation
(reflection), whereas no such relationship emerged among control
students. Random assignment in this design enables the definitive
conclusion that Service Learning can produce advances in moral reasoning.
Fostering acceptance of diversity. A great deal of research on
intergroup relations, pr ejudice, and stereotyping in social psychology
shows that engaging in shared activities toward mutually valued
ends breaks down group barriers, promoting shared understanding
across racial, ethnic, and other divides (e.g., Brewer & Miller,
1984; Hewstone, 1986; Pettigrew, in press-1998). Research on how
to diminish prejudice also indicates that mere "contact"
between groups is not sufficient to break down barriers. However,
working together on equal footing, cooperatively, toward mutually
valued goals, can build respect and trust, as well as friendships
and amicable work relationships (Gaertner et al., 1989, 1990, 1993,
Working together cooperatively with people of differing faiths,
ethnic ties or racial backgrounds can break down barriers (Slavin
& Madden, 1979; see Hawley & Jackson, 1995), although this
is not always easy because people of different backgrounds may have
to work to identify shared values. But there are things all people
have in common (minimally, their humanity), and this is especially
possible to see in a given community or locale, and even in neighboring
communities. Such themes can thus be identified, while differences
in perspective are also aired with civility and respect. The reflection
component of Service Learning, in particular, offers a prime opportunity
for breaking down barriers in this way between students who might
otherwise not have or use opportunities to share experiences with
each other, and to experience commonalities as well as differences
(Roberts-Weah, 1995; Sausjord, 1993; Toole & Toole, 1997). It
can thus foster reductions in intergroup tensions (Sausjord, 1993;
for related strategies, see Conard, 1988; Gabelko, 1988; Haugsby,
1991; Lynch, 1987; Pate, 1988; Reiken, 1952; Singh, 1991; Slavin
& Madden, 1979; Sonnenschein, 1988; Sowell, 1990; Tatum, 1992).
The Brandeis study in middle schools and high schools has, in fact,
demonstrated significant pre-test/post-test increases among participating
students, relative to controls, in scores on a self-report measure
of acceptance of diversity (Melchior, 1997). These students became
less likely to agree with statements such as, "It bothers me
if a teacher or classmate is different from me" and "I
would rather not live near people of different races or ethnic groups."
They also became more likely to agree with statements like, "I
prefer to spend time with different types of people, not just people
like me," and "I can learn a lot from people with backgrounds
and experiences that are different from mine." Service Learning
is thus significantly associated with increased acceptance of diversity,
even though the oft-noted self-selection problem must be acknowledged.
The Vanderbilt study of higher education (Eyler et al., 1997) also
indicated significant increases in self reports of tolerance for
others, as part of a citizenship-skills assessment, controlling
statistically for pretest differences. Corroborating this, the UCLA
study in higher education (Astin & Sax, in press-1998; Sax et
al., 1996) showed that participating students, relative to controls,
reported having changed more in college in their knowledge and acceptance
of different races/cultures. In addition, students generally (and
inexplicably) showed pre-test/post-test decreases in commitment
to promoting racial understanding. Participating students, however,
showed significantly smaller decreases on this measure.
A small-scale study of intensive Service Learning, integrating
it into one course per semester for 2 years (for a total of 4 courses)
(Myers-Lipton, 1996), showed significant pre-test/post-test declines
in self-reported prejudice on the widely used Modern Racism Scale
relative to control students. Again, an increase in prejudice scores
was observed among students in two comparison groups. In conjunction
with the UCLA study, these data suggest that higher education may
not typically lead to reductions in racial prejudice (see Jackman
& Muha, 1984), even though it does when pursued within a Service
Learning framework. A smaller study involving a single college course
supports this supposition by showing that among the participating
students, 75% reported changing their views positively about the
individuals they served, and that many had negative preconceptions
at the outset (Giles & Eyler, 1994). In fact, significant pre-test/post-test
improvements occurred among participating students in reported attitudes
toward those served. The study also indicated that these students
reported being less likely to blame those served for misfortunes
and reported being more likely to attribute the misfortunes of those
served to circumstance. Although there was no control group in this
study, the findings are quite provocative.
Importantly, an experiment that randomly assigned college students
to Service Learning (or to an alternative pedagogy in the same class)
showed that they were significantly more likely to report crediting
this class with heightening their tolerance for diversity than were
students assigned to the control condition (Markus et al., 1993).
With self-selection overcome by random assignment, this study provides
solid evidence that Service Learning can produce increased acceptance
of diversity. Consistent with this, participating students also
showed pre-test/post-test decreases in their reports of making snap
negative judgments about homeless people (relative to controls),
an example of increased understanding/tolerance across socioeconomic
Of course, it may be possible to foster a wider collective spirit,
as in service (Stanton, 1990), through other activities, such as
theater or school band (e.g., Benning, 1997), or sports when characterized
by fair play (Gough, 1997; see also Raspberry, 1997b), or any number
of cooperative, team-based activities. Such activities may foster
acceptance of diversity especially when there is diversity among
participants, based on the process of working with others cooperatively
toward shared goals, a factor known to build bonds (Slavin &
Madden, 1979), promote a common in-group identity (Gaertner, 1989,
1990, 1994) and mutual interdependence (Brewer, 1979, 1996; Fiske
& Ruscher, 1993; Huo et al., 1996). The fact that Service Learning
appears to foster a greater sense of community is relevant here
as well (Eyler et al., 1997). For schools or communities that do
not have this advantage, diversity in Service Learning can be achieved
by partnering with another school or community-based organization
that enables diversity in those doing the serving, and where feasible,
in those served.
Diversity in work and reflection groups can have positive consequences
under the right conditions for other reasons as well that are worth
recognizing. It can empower minority youth, by beginning to break
the presumed "success taboo" among some African American
youth (especially males; Herbert, 1997). Recent evidence in social
psychology relevant to this suggests that disadvantaged, stigmatized
groups unwittingly internalize stereotyped conceptions of themselves
in ways that have an impact on academic performance. They then dis-identify
with activities in which they are alleged to be inferior (e.g.,
academics among African Americans, math among females), choosing
not to invest their energies in these areas (Steele, 1997; Steele
& Aronson, 1995). The process is not intractable because intergroup
differences can be minimized in diverse work groups in which stereotyped
individuals equal in talent to "advantaged" others can
see "advantaged" others also having to work hard to achieve
(Steele, 1992), which then eradicates performance differences. For
youth who have dis-identified with school, Service Learning can
make it relevant, by helping them to feel they have something to
offer in their communities, and by putting them on equal footing
with "advantaged" others as well.
On the other hand, studies of Service Learning that show increased
acceptance of diversity did not necessarily involve such diversity
in participants or in those served, and increased acceptance of
diversity thus occurred even without such diversity (Melchior, 1997).
This implies that the effect may emerge primarily on the basis of
engaging in service, contributing to the common good cooperatively
and reflecting on it, a process that may be sufficient to remind
students of the common humanity of others and to show that everyone
has something to offer. Of course, teachers and staff involved in
such courses may make a point of enabling youth to discuss cultural
diversity openly, to honor, respect, and celebrate it, and special
benefits may accrue from this as well (Ayers & Ray, 1995; Roberts-Weah,
1995; Sausjord, 1993; Toole & Toole, 1997; see also Tatum, 1992).
Developing competence/self-esteem and protecting against risky
behaviors. Using standar d measures of self-esteem and self-confidence,
studies have suggested that participation in Service Learning is
associated with greater increases in scores on self-report self-esteem
measures (Conrad & Hedin, 1982; King, Walder, & Pavey, 1970;
Newmann & Rutter, 1983; Tierney & Branch, 1992). Increased
reports of self-confidence have also been observed based on service
participation in studies of tutors for young children (Cognetta
& Sprinthall, 1978; Conrad & Hedin, 1989; Hedin, 1987; although
see Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik, 1982).
Supporting this proposition, at least in a limited way, an experimental
study (directed by the National Center for Service Learning) randomly
assigned junior high school students to Service Learning in which
they served as "helpers" for the entire school year or
to an alternative condition. Participating students served as tutors,
companions at a senior center, or community helpers at a community
organization. The results indicated that participating boys showed
pre-test/post-test improvements on measures of both self-esteem
and depressive affect, along with significant reductions in problem
behavior in school, such as skipping class, being sent to the principal's
office or being suspended. The authors attribute the lack of findings
for girls to the high baseline consistency of altruism with girls'
gender roles, suggesting that nurturing and helping among boys is
not part of their gender socialization, and may thus have a profound
(and more profound) impact on their self-esteem. Research is needed
to determine if and when girls' self-esteem may benefit from such
Importantly, self-esteem is best conceptualized in terms of various
kinds of competence, such as perceptions of self-efficacy in a domain
(Bandura, 1977, 1 986; Mischel, 1973). In this sense, a number of
different types of competence are associated with Service Learning.
As indicated, Service Learning is associated with community leadership
abilities in middle and high school (Melchior, 1997), and with competence
in doing political work in high school (Hamilton & Zeldin, 1987).
It is also associated with personal efficacy in community influence
(Eyler et al., 1997) and with political efficacy (Markus et al.,
1993) in college.
These data are important because interventions that promote competence
among young people have been shown to prevent risky behaviors (Weissberg,
Caplan, & Harwood, 1991), defined as drug abuse, unwanted pregnancies,
AIDS, delinquency, and school dropout. Of course, not all interventions
designed for primary prevention of psychosocial problems among youth
are of sufficiently high quality to build competence (Rutter, 1982).
Moreover, interventions focusing only on one age range, such as
early childhood, will not suffice, because ongoing educational experiences
promoting social/behavioral development and competencies are needed
throughout development (Zigler & Berman, 1983).
In terms of protecting against risky behavior through Service Learning,
the Brandeis study in middle and high schools (Melchior, 1997) collected
self-reports of various risky behaviors and obtained some marginally
significant findings. Although the effects only approached statistical
significance, the study did show a slight decline in teenage pregnancy
among participating students relative to controls, as well as a
slight decline in delinquent behaviors. These findings suggest that
prevention of risky behavior may occur in Service Learning, but
the failure of the effect to reach conventional levels of statistical
significance suggests that on its own it may not be sufficient to
protect against such risky behavior. Instead, it may contribute
to such protection primarily when included in programs that target
relevant behaviors and competencies.
Importantly, rapidly amassing findings support this specific conclusion,
based on the Teen Outreach Program (sponsored by the Association
of Junior Leagues International). Teen Outreach integrates Service
Learning into a curriculum explicitly directed toward reduction
of risky behavior among students in middle school and high school.
The program involves young people in volunteer service in their
communities, typically at least 4 hours per week, based on a curriculum
dealing with human growth, family conflict, and other relevant issues,
with active discussion (reflection) invited and encouraged. Seven
years of data involving numerous sites and over 6,000 participating
and comparison students have shown pre-test/post-test declines among
participants, relative to nonparticipants, in teenage pregnancy,
school failure, and dropout rates (Philliber & Allen, 1992).
Although self-selection into this program poses the usual interpretational
difficulties, research controlled statistically for known differences
between groups. Moreover, other research has compared sites using
random assignment with those allowing self-selection and obtained
similar results for both, providing solid evidence that Teen Outreach
does protect against these behaviors (Philliber & Allen, 1993).
Indeed, the community service component of the program has been
shown to account for statistically significant variance in protecting
against these behaviors (Allen, Kuperminc, Philliber, & Herre,
1994; Allen, Philliber, & Hoggson, 1990), so it is not simply
the targeted curriculum, but the fact that community service is
integrated into it that makes the difference.
Research focusing on site factors that contribute to this program's
success has yielded provocative, important findings (Allen at al.,
1994). That is, considerably more success in protecting against
risky behaviors was found at sites that students perceived as promoting
their own autonomy and also their sense of connection with others
(that is, with peers and facilitators). Although this effect was
limited to middle school sites, it is impressive because all sites
focused on enhancing both autonomy and relatedness to some extent,
"by placing students in a help-giving (as opposed to help-receiving)
role" (Allen et al., 1994, p. 614). The special increment in
positive outcomes at middle school sites striking this balance especially
well is remarkable given the "restricted range" of this
variable, which makes statistically significant effects harder to
obtain. Such a balance between autonomy and connectedness has been
shown to be crucial in reducing school drop out in other kinds of
studies (Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997), presumably because
it facilitates internalization ( Deci, 1995; Deci & Ryan, 1986).
Indeed, Teen Outreach was a recent award recipient from the National
Center for Health Statistics.
Returning to the Brandeis study (Melchior, 1997), an earlier version
of it conducted before the one reported here (in 1993-94 versus
1994-95) focused on 13 school-based and community-based sites and
used fewer exclusion criteria. The results showed significant pre-test/post-test
increases among participating students, relative to controls, in
school attendance both in middle school and in high school. Although
it is not clear why no such effect emerged in the subsequent Brandeis
study, there is once again some evidence that improvement in problem
behaviors may be associated with Service Learning. In addition,
a study in public schools in Florida (Follman & Muldoon, 1997)
showed that 62% of Service Learning sites showed an increase in
attendance (with an average increase of 45%), while 20% showed no
change and 20% showed decreases in attendance, a pattern that was
similar at sites including at-risk youth. Moreover, 68% of Service
Learning sites reported a decrease in discipline referrals (and
an average decrease of 68%), with 21% showing no change and 11%
reporting an increase, a pattern more impressive at sites including
at-risk youth. Although inconsistencies in reporting from all sites,
the absence of a control group, and no reported tests for statistical
significance, limit the conclusions possible, the data suggest that
Service Learning is associated with decreases in school-related
As indicated, evidence shows that Service Learning participation
is associated with enhanced community connectedness among college
students (Eyler et al., 1997, and this is suggestive that it may
protect against risky behaviors (Blum & Rinehart, 1997). It
has been persuasively argued that "what seems to matter most
for adolescent health is that schools foster an atmosphere in which
students feel fairly treated, close to others, and a part of the
school. Our adolescent children, both younger and older, stand a
better chance of being protected from health risks when they feel
connected to their school" (Blum & Rinehart, 1997, p. 24).
Research on social networks in school-age children shows that diverse
networks (in race, gender, and age) in which large numbers of people
provide physical assistance are associated with child adjustment
(Sampson et al., 1997). These facts make Service Learning all the
more promising. It targets multiple problem behaviors in a comprehensive
way, as well as multiple positive youth outcomes, and thus may have
more potential to endure in an educational setting than a discrete
or categorical intervention targeting a single behavior (Weissberg
et al., 1991, p. 837).
Overall, the relative lack of statistically significant effects
indicating that Service Learning protects against risky youth behaviors,
with the powerful exception of Teen Outreach, suggests that caution
is warranted in making broad claims about Service Learning and risky
behavior. On the other hand, when its curriculum-basis targets these
behaviors, as Teen Outreach does, the evidence is solid.
Improving/supporting academic achievement. The Brandeis study in
middle and high schools has s hown that Service Learning is associated
with significant improvements in academic achievement (Melchior,
1997). Participating students showed significant improvements in
grade point average (GPA) across their core courses (math, science,
English, social studies) relative to nonparticipants. They also
showed significant pre-test/post-test increases, relative to control
students, in their scores on a self-report measure of school engagement,
including how happy they feel at school, how much they pay attention
in class, and how hard they work in school, as well as on a self-report
measure of their educational aspiration (wanting to go to a four-year
college). In addition, among participating students 87% reported
having learned a new skill that they believed would be valuable
in the future, and 75% reported having learned more in the Service
Learning class than in their typical classes. Although self-selection
issues remain, a clear association with academic achievement exists.
Using tutoring in K-12 education as a precise example of Service
Learning, a meta-analytic review of studies on the effects of tutoring--on
the tutors themselves--showed modest learning gains in 33 of 38
studies, based on the tutor's own exams in the subject matter (Cohen,
Kulik, & Kulik, 1982). Tutoring clearly enabled tutors to gain
a better understanding of their subject, and oftentimes, to develop
more positive attitudes about it as well. The effects were stronger
in math than in reading, and when tutors dealt with younger students
rather than peers, but the research is clear: tutors do show academic
gains. Of course, those tutored also performed better on exams in
45 of 52 studies assessing this. (For related reviews, see Conrad
& Hedin, 1989; Alt & Medrich, 1994).
In higher education, the Vanderbilt study did not include academic
indices, but the UCLA study did (Astin & Sax, in press-1998;
Sax et al., 1996), and its findings are similar to those of the
Brandeis study, although the authors take pains to acknowledge difficulties
in data interpretation due to a lack of pre-test measures on many
indices. Nonetheless, they report significantly higher GPA among
participating students than among other students, higher ratings
of degree of faculty contact, ratings of aspirations for an advanced
degree, and overall scores on a self-report measure of academic
self-concept. In addition, in a small-scale study in higher education
among students in a mass communication course (Cohen & Kinsey,
1994), participating students showed significantly higher ratings
of how much they learned about mass communication than did control
students in the same course, and significantly higher ratings of
the degree to which they saw class material as relevant to the real
world. Hence, there is an association with academic achievement
in higher education, even though self-selection remains an issue.
An experiment on with college students, however, able to rule out
self-selection factors, showed clear academic gains for students
assigned to Service Learning rather than to a control condition,
but only when tested on specific facts concerning their placement
as related to their curriculum (Hamilton & Zeldin, 1987). This
finding highlights the importance of assessing knowledge relevant
to service activities. A study involving a legislative internship
also showed no greater knowledge as a whole among participating
college students, but showed a more nuanced understanding of basic
issues (Eyler & Halteman, 1981).
In another experiment in higher education (Markus et al., 1993),
again able to rule out self-selection factors through the use of
random selection, did in fact show significantly higher grades in
the course (in the B+ to A- range) among participating students
than among students assigned to a control condition (in the B to
B+ range). These students also showed significantly higher ratings
in their self-reported belief that they were able to apply what
they learned in the course to new situations and in their reports
that they had performed up to their potential in the course. The
experimental design makes it possible to conclude definitively that
Service Learning can produce enhanced academic achievement among
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that education reform focused
solely on increasing GPA and achievement test scores cannot address
some of the most pressing challenges facing youth today. Academic
achievement cannot viably be considered the only index of effective
education. Advocacy of Service Learning is justified on grounds
that extend beyond increases in academic achievement, because even
though it clearly supports and may often improve achievement, it
is an integrative strategy for achieving multiple, valued ends in
youth development, including basic elements of civic education,
and character education. Simply put, it is a valuable educational
tool that makes academic curricula more relevant and engaging, introduces
no achievement decrement, and supports growth and development in
ways that prepare youth for the 21st century (Rifkin, 1997). The
available findings are provocative and compelling, and they warrant
public policy action now in the context of private-public partnerships
that promote Service Learning.
E. Voluntary or Required?
Voluntary Service Learning opportunities for students. Research
strongly suggests the importance of student autonomy in internalizing
values and attitudes based on experience (Deci, 1995; Deci &
Ryan, 1986; see also Allen et al., 1994; Vallerand et al., 1997).
Hence, Service Learning is best promoted as an option and opportunity
for students, by inspiring students to choose to participate because
attractive opportunities are available. Making such opportunities
widely accessible--for all students at every academic level in every
educational institution in the country so that all students can
participate throughout development in the context of their education--would
be a pervasive change with important, desired consequences.
When Service Learning is voluntary, the onus is on the educational
institution and teacher to make the various options exciting enough
that students will choose to take part, even students who might
not tend to be so inclined, but find the possible activities done
with other students compelling. Voluntary Service Learning may make
it easier for institutions and educators to fulfill the crucial
goal of inviting students to take part in this way. Individual educators
and staff provide structure, inspiration, curriculum integration,
and reflection opportunities, but it is the students' own motivations
that must be engaged, and especially interested educators and staff
are best equipped to do this. Hence, there are cogent arguments
for making participation voluntary (Wildavsky, 1991; see also Cloud,
1997), although little research exists on differences between voluntary
and required Service Learning, and the research that does exist
shows few differences (e.g., Allen et al., 1994). Nonetheless, institutionalizing
Service Learning--by making available the necessary preparation
time and training opportunities for educators and staff, as well
as the facilities, vehicles, and so on--is a challenge that may
be more feasible when voluntary.
Ideally, educational institutions would make a campus-wide commitment
to Service Learning, incorporating it into their overall mission
statement, identifying and training interested teachers and professors
at each educational level and across fields (subject areas), and
thus offering multiple opportunities to students that are viable
and appealing. This is pressing enough as a policy challenge without
mandatory Service Learning. The crucial task is to do Service Learning
well and in widely expanded ways throughout the nation.
The best way to implement Service Learning is by promoting it to
students and inspiring them to want to participate. It is a teaching
and learning strategy that asks students to be active and engaged
in shaping the service they do--in the context of a curriculum--with
a "voice" that is heard. Ideally, student autonomy is
balanced with connectedness with others, as this is a determining
factor in the effectiveness of school interventions for various
youth outcomes (Allen et al., 1994; Kuperminc, Allen, & Arthur,
1996; Vallerand et al., 1997 ), and may well override the mandatory/voluntary
In addition, it is important to emphasize that the voluntary participation
of those served is also important in Service Learning. Those served
must be free to indicate whether or not they want the service and
what, if any, service they believe they might need. If participating
students invite those served to describe their needs and resources
(and how they might want to partake or contribute), a sense of collaboration
can be established. If those served do not value the service, it
is not "service." In some cases, of course, a neighborhood
that students themselves live in is being improved, in which case
the students are the community served. In any event, no one in Service
Learning should feel coerced--either those served or those doing
Of course, beyond the voluntary/mandatory distinction, there are
many venues, such as elementary school classrooms or particular
required courses in any educational institution, in which the teacher/professor
uses Service Learning as a tool for teaching and learning (given
the academic freedom to do so). In such cases, Service Learning
may be voluntary in the educational institution, but required in
the classroom. There is no reason to believe this to be problematic,
and good reason to believe it can have beneficial outcomes.
Mandating Service Learning for all students. Debates are ongoing,
of course, about Service Learning requirements (e.g., Klie &
Steele, 1990; Levison, 1990). When Service Learning is imposed as
a mandate, for example, by instituting a graduation requirement
of a certain number of community service hours, Service Learning
may often be done superbly well--in the sense of a curriculum integration,
opportunities for reflection, and support for student autonomy and
connectedness. Mandatory Service Learning also has the unparalleled
advantage of reaching all students, and thus of having a major transformative
impact (Barber, 1991, 1992). Indeed, it has been argued that mandatory
Service Learning may have its greatest impact on youth least inclined
to participate. A strong case can thus be made for mandatory Service
Learning when well-implemented, because civic education, it can
be argued, is as necessary as reading, writing, and mathematics
in preparing youth to participate in democracy (Barber, 1992). It
is a pedagogy that empowers individuals to take responsibility and
to work together in ways that make them better able to protect their
own liberties, as a lesson in citizenship.
On the other hand, the bare-bones criteria for Service Learning
often do not come close to being met when a mere requirement for
community service hours for graduation is instituted, even when
it is termed "Service Learning" (Cloud, 1997). Little
commitment within the institution or among educators to ensure a
curriculum integration and reflection opportunities renders the
educational value of service requirements questionable, because
they are not Service Learning. In such cases, there may also be
limited guidance available to students as to the meaning of their
service and few (if any) options for fulfilling the service requirement.
Hence, if an institution-wide Service Learning requirement is to
be effective in student learning and development, it must involve
a thoughtful curriculum and meaningful reflection opportunities,
and must invite student participation.
A terminology problem may also be relevant to how students and
parents respond to prospective Service Learning experiences. The
term "community service," especially "mandated community
service," is often seen as pejorative and punitive because
the criminal justice system so routinely uses it in sentencing convicted
criminals. Sentences of "mandated community service" (which
alternatively could be termed mandated "reparations")
inadvertently equate community service with "punishment"
in the public eye. Hence, public affairs efforts to promote and
implement Service Learning in K-12 and higher education--whether
mandatory or voluntary--must seek to resolve this confusion and
lift the stigma.
Overall, Service Learning requirements are best implemented by
offering valuable, meaningful service options, and Service Learning
courses of sufficient variety to match varied student interests.
In this way, a Service Learning requirement can conceivably leave
students with enough of a sense of freedom that they choose their
service, internalize their actions, and thus come to care about
making a difference (e.g., Bierma, 1998; Hines, 1997). Of course,
when Service Learning is an institutional requirement, it may be
a lot to ask that all students have such high quality experiences,
but this should be the aim. Required or voluntary, poorly implemented
Service Learning is not likely to be effective. And even if well-implemented,
a potential downside of mandatory Service Learning should be carefully
guarded against--that some students still feel "forced"
to participate, and show their displeasure enough to taint the experience
for other students, or in the worst case, unwittingly even harm
those served in some way (e.g., young children, nursing home residents,
To guard against any student (or parent) feeling coerced about
a Service Learning requirement, students should, of course, be permitted
to opt out of a requirement for an alternative assignment (in consultation
with his or her parents and teacher). Well-implement Service Learning,
however, actively involves students in efforts to define community
needs and engages them in activ e decision-making relevant to service
within their curriculum. Thus, it not likely to evoke an outcry
against "government-coerced servitude" or other unwanted
interference in students' lives. When well-implemented, then, the
opt-out possibility in a Service Learning requirement, should rarely
be chosen, even though it should be available.
In sum, students in K-12 and higher education should be offered
the opportunity to participate in Service-Learning throughout their
education. The aim of this proposal is to make Service Learning
available in every grade or educational level within every K-12
school and institution of higher education in the country. To make
Service-Learning an integral part of the curriculum, available as
an option, much work needs to be done. The support of school districts
and principals, deans and presidents, must be solicited, so that
they are sufficiently motivated to do their own solicitation of
participation from interested teachers, professors, and staff who
can then inspire students to take part. Service Learning emphasizes
real-world, hands-on learning that is interesting, challenging,
and fun, and when it is presented as such, students want to participate.
F. National Campaign to Promote Service Learning
The decision to adopt Service Learning clearly must be made locally.
Nonetheless, a national campaign is needed to inspire superintendents,
principals/deans, teachers/professors, administrators, and staff
to adopt it as part of the overall process of teaching and learning
at their institution. A coordinated promotion nationally and regionally
is thus needed (including at the grassroots level, Kincely, 1996),
along with targeted funding in private-public partnerships (e.g.,
Sigmon, 1996), especially to enable schools to have equity across
socioeconomic divides. Increased funding is clearly needed for such
a promotion in K-12 and higher education, so that the qualities
and assets of Service Learning become well known. Widespread understanding
of the practices of Service Learning and its advantages would both
begin an important national conversation on service in education
and increase its prevalence--if coupled with increased technical
assistance for teachers, professors, and staff. As indicated, distributing
definitional guidelines widely does not necessitate entering the
national standards debate on this new topic because Service Learning
is not linked with national testing. Definitional guidelines should
be distributed to schools and school districts, colleges and universities,
and even directly to teachers and professors. In addition, poorer
school districts face many pressing challenges that may make Service
Learning seem less of a priority, in spite of its value for a variety
of outcomes among at-risk students, including academic outcomes.
Hence, it must be promoted widely across socioeconomic and other
divides, along with increasing the seed funding available to cover
the costs of training and technical assistance for professional
development for teachers and staff. Such training is usually offered
on a fee-for-service basis and is thus less available to poor schools
Service Learning brings students together to work toward shared
aims and empowers them to take action in making a difference in
their communities--in the context of a curriculum. As school reform,
it tends to flourish when fully integrated in a given classroom
or even in an educational institution as a whole, rather than as
a less well-integrated add-on. The best examples of school reform
involve the whole school and its governance, making it important
to consider how best to integrate Service Learning into the culture
of an entire school and its atmosphere (Braun, 1996; Furco, 1996).
In any event, experimenting with block scheduling can also facilitate
Service Learning because meaningful service is more feasible with
more time during the school day. Of course, such dramatic systemic
change is not crucial even if service is done during the school
day, and it can certainly be done after school. The present argument
is that each educational institution should offer at least one Service
Learning opportunity per grade or academic level, for example, one
teacher/professor at each level or in each subject/discipline, with
some infusion into the atmosphere and spirit of the institution.
Making this a reality in schools, colleges, and universities will
require concerted, directed actions--to promote interest in the
value of Service Learning in K-12 and higher education, and in community-based
organizations as well, to increase seed funding for professional
development and technical assistance, and to enhance strategic planning
to make ongoing Service Learning self-sustaining. Partnerships between
K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, in particular,
can help enable sustainability--with cycles of Service Learning
undergraduates and K-12 students in some of the same service, in
cross-age teams, where feasible, supporting each other in collaboration.
Partnerships are also needed between educational institutions and
community-based organizations. Of course, service activities must
always be appropriately matched to students' age, developmental
abilities, interests, and experience, and the appropriate training
and supervision for particular service tasks is needed, along with
logistical, liability, and accountability support.
"Formal" and "informal" Service Learning. The
curriculum integration and reflection com ponents of Service Learning
can be conducted "formally" within a school and its curriculum
(e.g., within a class or classes), or "informally" within
a community-based organization, as indicated, and emphasized within
existing guidelines (see ASLER, 1993). In "formal" Service
Learning, the process is coordinated entirely by the school and
integrated into the curriculum of a given classroom, or even into
the curriculum and atmosphere of the whole school, thus contributing
to education reform efforts beyond simply offering Service Learning.
"Informal" Service Learning is coordinated independently
of schools, which offer both the curriculum integration and reflection
components, along with the service opportunities, monitoring, supervision,
and encouragement (Cairns & Kielsmeier, 1995; Furco, 1994).
Youth service organizations have great expertise in youth service
as compared with teachers professors who are more familiar with
classroom teaching. Capacity-building is needed in encouraging teachers/professors
to utilize Service Learning as a tool for teaching and learning.
But both "informal" and "formal" Service Learning
warrant promotion, support, and assistance.
Partnerships. In making Service Learning possible, both K-12 schools
and institutions of higher education can partner with community-based
organizations (see Applebome, 1997; Rifkin, 1996; Sigmon, 1994).
Because "informal" Service Learning in community-based
organizations typically is not connected with educational institutions,
except through extracurricular clubs, the full power of youth as
engines of community renewal and as people demonstrating civic engagement
in action remains untapped. Collaboration between schools and community-based
organizations could maximize the number of students offered Service
Learning opportunities, because if a school were to guide students
"formally" into activities at community-based organizations,
and were to "formalize" such experiences for students,
far more youth would participate. If community-based organizations
can gear up to supervise greater numbers of volunteers, more students
can do "informal" Service Learning, based on the guidance
of their educational institutions.
Of course, full integration of Service Learning into a curriculum
at the school would not be mutually exclusive with partnering with
a local community-based organization. Moreover, academic institutions
can take responsibility for the curriculum and reflection components
without going so far as integrating service into a traditional course,
such as in math or history or psychology. Rather, it can be offered
as a "field work" course designed to appeal to students'
desire to learn through action in the world, through service. This
places less stress on teachers/professors to change ongoing teaching
styles, although many argue that teaching styles should change.
Still, a "field work" or "internship" course
(with curriculum and reflection) may be easier to implement, and
it takes the burden off community-based organizations just as well
as Service Learning in a traditional course.
Unsurprisingly, there is the worry that this kind of relationship
between educational institutions and community-based organizations
could lead to a glut of youth volunteers in community-based organizations
(Gose, 1997). Planning, monitoring, and a systematic collaboration
between the school and the community-based organization can prevent
this, however. If schools were to provide much of the relevant orientation
for newly serving students to prepare them to enter the site, and
perhaps organize other aspects of the partnership (such as its curriculum),
this can lift burdens from community-based organizations. Scaling-up
programs at community-based organizations so that more cross-age
volunteers can effectively participate and more wide-ranging populations
can be served is feasible with the right planning (Schorr, 1997).
There is little doubt that funding and private-public partnerships
would be needed to make it work. But community-based organizations
offering Service Learning are plentiful, and schools, colleges,
and universities can do more to find systematic ways to collaborate
with them, furthering the work of these organizations, and their
own educational missions as well.
In another form of partnership, noted briefly, colleges and universities
can partner with local K-12 schools to facilitate Service Learning
among K-12 students (see Harkavy, in press). In theory, such partnering
can help engage K-12 students in Service Learning because established
activities that college and university students are doing can be
shared with teachers and administrators in K-12 schools, partnering
with K-12 teachers to help them to use such activities in their
curriculum. College students can be role models for service, help
organize activities, and provide adult supervision under some circumstances,
making it more feasible for K-12 schools to incorporate Service
Learning into their overall educational mission. Of course, expert
assistance is needed to help set up the institutional structures
to permit K-12 schools to collaborate with higher education. In
particular, supportive principals and dedicated teachers must be
identified, and a teacher-specialist in Service Learning as well,
to provide credible guidance and professional development (Root,
1994; Silcox, 1998). These are important steps in establishing the
infrastructure for Service Learning, and also for collaboration.
Seed funding. The holy grail of community development is seed funding
provided to local initiatives-- grassroots individuals, groups,
and organizations--building on existing capacities so that sustainable
development is achieved (Henton et al., 1997; Kretzmann & McKnight,
1993). Within such a model, there is a role for inspiring interest
within a community or a school, for example, as capacity-building
for an initiative, even when there is little capacity or interest
immediately evident. For this reason, a campaign to promote the
value of Service Learning, both nationally and locally, is warranted--highlighting
its outcomes, its definitions, and how it is done. In support of
that, funding will also be needed to respond to increasing demand
for professional development in Service Learning based on a successful
promotional effort, and for technical assistance as well. Hence,
expanded private-public partnerships will thus be needed to promote
and implement Service Learning on a more widespread basis nationally.
Sensibly, much of what the Corporation for National Service funds
is modeled along the lines of private-public partnerships. That
is, AmeriCorps members are partnered with existing local community
organizations in charge of service activities and fiscally invested
in the member. Expanded funding is thus needed for AmeriCorps (and
AmeriCorps-VISTA), which can work to facilitate Service Learning.
Clearly more funding is needed for Learn and Serve America, which
directly supports Service Learning nationally.
Private-public partnerships and seed funding. The best Service
Learning--and the best community service of any stripe--focuses
on capacity-building in communities for reasons of sustainability
(Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993). Sustainability in Service Learning
applies not only to the broad effects of the service on the community--to
improve the community--but also to the initiative itself, which
can and hopefully will become self-sustaining. This way, youth continually
have the opportunity to serve, even as (or if) conditions improve
in the community, making a particular service no longer needed.
Sustainability in both senses can be ensured by strong private-public
partnerships and systematic collaborations.
For example, one way to have an effective private-public partnership
is to identify existing organizations that do (or could) sponsor
AmeriCorps members in working to facilitate Service Learning in
K-12 and higher education. Selecting a set of AmeriCorps members
whose express challenge it is to assist in developing and enhancing
Service Learning within K-12 schools, colleges, and universities,
or within community-based organizations, would be fruitful. AmeriCorps
members could then work to develop "formal" and "informal"
Service Learning initiatives in a targeted use of federal resources.
Special attention is needed to create private-public partnerships--with
contributions from community groups--that will develop the necessary
infrastructure in educational institutions for Service Learning.
The best way to set the stage for AmeriCorps members' presence in
an educational institution is to first solicit the support of the
principal (or dean or president), who can then solicit/inspire participation
from interested teachers/professors at each grade or educational
level, and can identify a competent and credible Service-Learning
coordinator in the system (e.g., a respected teacher/professor)
who has time and salary allotted to this work. It is a process that
can cross crucial hurdles for AmeriCorps members in advance of their
placement. Soliciting support from principals/deans, teachers/professors,
and staff is crucial.
On another level, the national spotlight was turned last year to
the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, highlighting youth,
youth service, grassroots efforts, and volunteerism. The event provided
grist for a national conversation about service and youth. Goal
5 of the Summit is to provide all young people with the opportunity
to serve. At this stage, the nonprofit organization, America's Promise,
which emerged from the Summit, is dedicated to furthering its five
goals, and is committed to Service Learning as one avenue for Goal
5 (Powell, 1997), making America's Promise a potential partner.
Service Learning is a concept whose time has come. Numerous national
organizations and coalitions are pursuing initiatives concerned
with Service Learning, including Campus Opportunity Outreach League
(COOL), Campus Compact, the Education Commission of the States,
the K-12 Compact, the Partnering Initiative on Education in Civil
Society, and still others, along with America's Promise. At the
federal level, the Corporation for National Service supports Learn
& Serve America, which funds Service Learning in K-12 and higher
educational (and in community-based organizations) nationally. It
also supports AmeriCorps and the Senior Service Corps. Both of the
latter could be directed in part toward facilitating Service Learning.
Also at the federal level, the Department of Education can support
Service Learning through Goal 5 of Goals 2000, which addresses citizenship
education, and through the Improving America's Schools Act. The
Act enables support for Service Learning under Title I, which connects
academic learning to real-world or career education, Title IV for
Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Title IC for migrant education, and
Title IX for Indian education (in building on local culture). Service
Learning can also be supported in the charter school movement. Finally,
the Department of Education funds character education efforts, and
these efforts can readily involve Service Learning.
Again at the federal level, there are two national mentoring/tutoring
initiatives that would flourish with increases in seed funding for
Service Learning. America Reads makes funding available for college
work study students, AmeriCorps members, and others, to help young
children learn to read before the end of the third grade. An initiative
in technology literacy has also been proposed to make sure all youth
achieve the computer literacy necessary to function effectively
in contemporary society. Tutoring reading and tutoring in computer
skills can each be Service Learning, at all levels. Prevalent concerns
about education in mathematics and a new federal initiative, may
make the time ripe for math tutoring as well.
In sum, building on available structures, assistance at the national
level can be generated for creating the private-public partnerships
necessary in building capacity for Service Learning--in every grade
or academic level in every educational institution in the country.
Guidelines for quality. Guidelines for Service Learning in K-12
and higher education exist. Since 1993, the Standards of Quality
for School-Based and Community-Based Service-Learning have been
the state-of-the-art guidelines, as issued by the Alliance of Service-Learning
in Educational Reform (ASLER, 1993). These guidelines build on the
Wingspread Special Report, Principles of Good Practice for Combining
Service with Learning (Honnet & Poulsen, 1989). Although there
are many important elements, both in ASLER and in Wingspread, and
also in recent summary-definitions issued by the Council of Chief
State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Corporation for National Service
(CNS), agreement exists on four basics, as indicated, and beyond
this there is much variability. A tentative listing of standards
in Service Learning is offered in the next table, highlighting the
four basics. Perfect overlap between the entire set of definitions
and any initiative is unnecessary. These guidelines are simply guideposts
to strive toward that focus the basics (the first four in the list,
which are shared by all), and highlight some others (selectively
adapted from the various lists) to be considered as well.
A Précis of Current Standards of Quality in Service-Learning
in K-12 and Higher Education*
· meets actual community needs (with a small or large scope
as defined by students' age and experience), that is, needs that
the community and those served have identified and agree need to
· is integrated into a relevant, thoughtfully organized
curriculum, enhancing that curriculum, whether in a school or in
a community-based organization, and involves both academic and skill-learning
in pre paration for the service
· is accompanied by structured opportunities for students
to reflect on their experiences--to think, write in journals, and
talk in small, informal groups characterized by respect and constructive
problem- solving, both about the service experience, and about personal
feelings, revealing commonalities and differences that are respected
· involves students as active participants and is shaped
by students' "voice," so that students are empowered in
decision-making, come up with their own ideas, and organize services,
in a framework support ed by teachers and staff
· includes diversity, where possible, both among Service
Learning participants (in their work teams and reflection groups)
and in those served, and whether or not such diversity is achieved,
highlights sen sitivity to and respect for cultural and other differences
· includes attention to fostering a sense of caring, civic
responsibility, respect for human dignity, and the ethic of service--elements
of character and civic education
· regularly assesses Service Learning impacts to guide improvement
*For a one-page summary of the ASLER, Wingspread, CCSSO, and CNS
guidelines, respectively, see Appendix I,
where each guideline selected for the present listing is checked
This summarizes existing standards, as Service Learning continues
to evolve, refined by experience. A process for updating existing
guidelines, ongoing for some time, will yield a new revision in
the Wingspread and ASLER series (in 1998; Pam Toole, National Youth
Leadership Council, personal communication, 1997; see also Dugan,
1997). Nonetheless, the guidelines in Table 1 are likely to survive,
with some refinements.
Guidelines for assessing effectiveness. The simplest strategy for
determining whether or not Service Learning is effectively implemented
is to ask a set of straightforward questions: Does the service address
a real need? Is it integrated into a curriculum? Is it accompanied
by reflection? And is it shaped in part by student planning and
leadership? A "yes" to all of these questions puts the
initiative on firm footing (for a similar method, see Melchior,
1997). On the other hand, new implementation guidelines for Service
Learning--again to be issued by the National Youth Leadership Council
in 1998--will specify a more complex procedure (Toole, 1997). To
calibrate exactly how well each standard is implemented a rubric
can be used for determining an acceptable, good, or high quality
implementation for each standard (see Dugan, 1997; Toole, 1997).
An elaborate standards-of-quality assessment of this kind adds precision
to a quality-of-implementation assessment based simply on determining
dichotomously whether or not the four main components of Service
Learning are present.
The importance of effective implementation is indicated by the
fact that some of the best research has suggested that positive
effects of Service Learning may be more prevalent when it meets
minimal standards (Melchior, 1997). Hence, widespread distribution
of Service Learning guidelines describing its central elements and
how to gauge effective implementation will help practitioners do
Service Learning well.
Of course, knowing how well Service Learning is implemented is
a far cry from program evaluation for the purposes of accountability
and a far cry from meaningful, generalizable research on the effects
of Service Learning; it is only a first step. Both in-house evaluation
work and more elaborate research studies need to gauge implementation
if it is to be clear that it is Service Learning that is being examined
(see Bradley, 1996; Cunningham, 1996; Kavaloski, 1997; Purdy, 1996;
Stephens, 1995; Toole, 1997; Waterman, 1997). But there is also
a world of difference between program evaluation and well-controlled
research that seeks to draw general conclusions. Individual teachers,
professors, and staff are unlikely to be interested in doing elaborate
research studies (or to have the expertise), and yet some evaluation
is likely to be necessary and also valuable for students as "action
research" to help indicate if a change in practices is needed
(e.g., Kavaloski, 1997; Waterman, 1997).
To evaluate Service Learning efforts, schools are likely to need
help in establishing low-cost, ongoing evaluation procedures as
part of routine monitoring. In addition, engaging students in the
evaluation of their own service efforts as "action research"
can have special meaning for students, because they can then see
the fruits of their labor, better understand the problems addressed,
and use the collected information to consider how they might improve
upon their work. In this respect, it is crucial that evaluation
efforts are not only focused on the impact of Service Learning on
students, but also on its impact on the community and on those served.
Unfortunately, community impact is usually assessed largely in terms
of "bean counts"--the number of service hours logged.
Such measures are relevant, but subtler measures are needed tapping
the degree to which services were effective. In addition, capacity-building
impacts of any kind in the community, in which those served becoming
better empowered to help themselves, are worth assessing (e.g.,
a learner in a tutoring program who now has a new skill). (For more
on evaluation, see Bradley, 1996; Kielsmeier, 1997; Melchior &
Beyond program evaluation, a large-scale behavioral-science research
agenda will also continue to be needed in Service Learning. It is
of the essence that we further increase knowledge about when Service
Learning is likely to work best when it works well, precisely why
these effects occur when they do (based on what mediating mechanisms),
and precisely for what outcomes. It is worth noting as well that
research is needed both on ongoing initiatives and on basic processes
relevant to Service Learning.
Addressing assessment from a different standpoint, neither program
evaluation nor more generalizable research speaks to the question
of how to assess student achievement in Service Learning courses.
In this regard, some have argued that what is learned in such experiences
is difficult to evaluate because it does come simply from taking
notes on a lecture, reading a book, or studying for an exam. The
implication is that the effects for individual students may be subtle
and nuanced (e.g., Conrad & Hedin, 1989). New skills learned
and concrete competencies gained are likely to be specific, for
example, involving the capacity to apply knowledge and also higher-order
problem-solving, rather than rote memory (Eyler & Halteman,
1981; Hamilton & Zeldin, 1987; see also Silcox, 1993). This
may mean that relevant academic achievements for participating students
may be rather more difficult to tap. Hence, support is needed to
provide helpful hints for teachers, professors, and staff about
how to develop indices of what is learned in Service Learning that
are sensitive to actual learning (such as student portfolios that
document learning). Ideally, precise learning objectives are spelled
out in preparation for service activities and the academic assessment
indices relevant both to the service and to the curriculum are used.
Issues in implementation. Because Service Learning can catalyze
pivotal changes related to both character and civic education, educators
may be inclined to gear their curriculum explicitly toward these
issues, such as respect for others and social responsibility, a
sense of caring and connection, community engagement, and so on,
within a wide range of possible curricula.
To take a particular example, the aim of civic education is to
foster competent and responsible citizenship based on an understanding
of rights and responsibilities, privacy and social values, and history,
public affairs, and intellectual skills to think critically about
civic and political life (e.g., Etzioni, 1993; Quigley, 1997). Hence,
the overall impact of Service Learning on civic attitudes might
be maximized by incorporating service directly into a civic education
curriculum, involving formal instruction in political affairs and
government (although a social action model of civic education is
not the only possible model). In addition, it is in fact possible
to increase such citizenship values as social responsibility by
integrating service into English or math or other courses (Fellows,
1995; Jacoby et al., 1996; Stephens, 1995). Service Learning courses
foster civic values by encouraging students to take direct social
action on social problems they have helped to identify and define,
engaging with their communities enough to be able to do this, and
in so doing, gaining direct experience with participatory democracy.
Of course, if a school does not embody basic "civic values
such as civility, respect for the rights of others, recognition
of human dignity, and constitutional processes, like adherence to
due process of law," these values are not likely to be internalized
by students (Quigley, 1997, p. 6). The implicit curriculum of a
school can either support or undermine the explicit curriculum into
which service and reflection are integrated. Schools teach democracy
best by modeling democracy (Becker & Couto, 1996; Gerson, 1997),
and Service Learning is best implemented when it emphasizes open
communication, mutual respect, civility, a search for shared values,
and collaboration between students, teachers, staff, and those served.
If such a democratic atmosphere does not exist in the school, then
teachers will need to take up the challenge on their own, one classroom
at a time.
Similarly, it could be argued that Service Learning should best
facilitate character education--such as social connectedness and
perspective-taking--when the service is integrated into an explicit
character education curriculum that highlights virtuous character
traits, such as respect and responsibility (e.g., Lickona, 1991),
or still others, such as kindness and compassion, honesty, loyalty,
fairness, justice, and human rights (Moody & McKay, 1993; see
also Lewis, 1998). Discussing particular values people might manifest
in action before participating in a relevant service would exemplify
this approach, whether or not the curriculum is focused explicitly
on character education. When preparing students in this way in advance
of the service, what is likely to matter most is that students have
enough autonomy in deciding possible values to address and observe
that the values make sense to them (and their families) and they
are able to internalize the experience (e.g., Deci, 1995).
Virtues are best "discovered" by students for themselves
in serving and reflecting. And again, the discovery process can
take place in any number of courses, and can focus on any number
of virtues, in for example, talking about how it feels to work toward
social justice, to be of service and to care, advancing the ethic
of service and the ethic of caring. Reflection after the service
experience might also include discussion of broader "virtues"
such as empathy and perspective-taking, as well as acceptance and
honoring of diversity, respect for human dignity, and so on. Again,
it is likely to matter less whether particular virtues are explicitly
raised in advance of service, and more exactly how these virtues
or ethics are raised, so that students freely participate. Of course,
students' academic preparation for the service must be substantive
and sufficient, and should include specific learning objectives
(LaPlante & Kinsley, 1994; Stephens, 1995), even while open
discourse is encouraged and students feel they are thinking about
and grasping things for themselves.
Overall, Service Learning is best integrated fully into how a teacher
or professor teaches or even into an entire school atmosphere, so
that it becomes intimately a part of education. In the absence of
this, of course, it is once again one classroom and one teacher
at a time.
Service Learning brings youth together to make a difference by
working toward shared goals, along with teachers, staff, community
members, and those served, across various racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic
divides. An extensive review of the research demonstrates that it
is associated with civic engagement, the ethic of service, civic
attitudes, social connectedness, acceptance of diversity, academic
achievement, and in some cases, even reduction of risky behavior.
These outcomes imply a stronger "sense of community" and
thus heightened social capital among youth--matters of demonstrable
significance in adolescent development, based on large-scale behavioral
science research (Blum & Rinehart, 1997) and of great value
in communitarian thought as well (e.g., Bellah et al., 1985; Etzioni,
1993). Overall, Service Learning fosters youth development, in terms
of important aspects of character and civic education (see also
Berman et al., 1997).
Service Learning fosters civic education as thoroughly as character
education, and can even provide education for democracy (Barber
& Battistoni, 1993; Barber, 1984, 1992). It offers teachable
moments for citizenship, such as respecting the rights of others,
showing social responsibility, negotiating, and resolving conflicts
(Berman, 1990; Brandell & Hinck, 1997; Clark, 1993; Coles, 1993;
Schine & Halsted). When students work together democratically
to reach decisions about how to assess the needs and resources of
the community, then do the assessment, decide on an action plan,
and follow through with it, they learn the value of teamwork directed
toward a common good (see Cairn & Kielsmeier, 1995; Lewis, 1991).
They learn how to be active, to reach beyond themselves, and to
take action. They have a "voice" in the process, collaborate
with others who also have "voice," are engaged, and experience
the workings of civil society and participatory democracy first
Service Learning is also a strategy that addresses the opportunities
available to youth, in this case, the opportunity to serve, as well
as the relationships (both instrumental and caring) available to
them--their social capital (e.g., Briggs, 1997). It has its impact
on youth by changing the opportunity structures available to them
in their schools and communities--in terms of relationships with
adults and peers, and is thus an integrative strategy for youth
development in communitarian form (cf. Etzioni, 1983).
Of course, youth development, character education, and civic education
are complicated and challenging, especially when considered in the
context of prejudice, hatred, and violence, and other antisocial
behavior, that plague many American communities. None of these ills
will be solved with a magic bullet. Socioeconomic factors, neighborhood
resources, housing, and family relations, are all part of the complex
social ecology that youth must navigate daily (e.g., Connell et
al., 1995) and will be the context in which Service Learning is
experienced when implemented in neighborhoods and schools. Nonetheless,
it can help build community, and bring youth together with each
other and with adults in collaboration, in relationships across
Importantly, there is now growing evidence that Service Learning
can serve as an integrative strategy for achieving multiple, valued
aims in youth development in the context of education. This position
paper characterizes the need for Service Learning, its definitions,
and its various forms, and presents an extensive review of the empirical
literature. It considers the voluntary/mandatory debate and suggests
a coordinated national strategy for promoting and funding Service
Learning more widely in private-public partnerships.
There are Service Learning initiatives around that country that
have been shown to work, and we can learn from these "best
practices" so as to replicate them elsewhere (Schorr, 1997).
The pitfalls to be avoided in attempting to "replicate"
excellent practices from one setting to another, and even in expanding
the reach of the practices in a given setting, are well-captured
by the watch words of flexibility and sensitivity to context differences.
When carefully honored, these challenges can be overcome in scaling-up
best practices, given sufficient time and fiscal investment. Although
the "bible" of best practice examples in Service Learning
has yet to be fully compiled, such efforts are ongoing for K-12
education by the National Youth Leadership Council (Toole, 1997;
although see Urke & Wegner, 1993) and for colleges and universities
by the American Association of Higher Education. In the meantime,
numerous curriculum examples are available, as noted. In the end,
support is needed for distributing definitional guidelines and best-practice
examples widely--to teachers, professors, principals, deans, schools,
school districts, colleges, and universities.
The evidence suggests that it is time to take action at the national
level to promote Service Learning and make it available to more
young people throughout their development--for their good, for the
good of their education, and for the good of our communities. The
time is now.
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Appendix I (a)
The ASLER Guidelines
Adapted from the Standards of Quality for Service Learning
Alliance for Service-Learning in Educational Reform, 1995
1. Integrates Service with Academic Learning
2. Teaches New Skills and New Thinking so as to Build New Competencies
3. Involves a Reflection Component as well as Sufficient
4. Takes Place in an Atmosphere in which Service is Recognized
5. Incorporates the "Voice" of Students in Planning/Organizing
6. Makes a Real Contribution to the Community
7. Assesses this Real Contribution in the Community along with Other
8. Connects the School and Sponsoring Organization in New Ways
9. Is Supported as Integral to the School and to the Community Organization
10. Involves Skilled Adult Guidance/Mentoring
11. Involves Relevant Pre-Service Training and Staff Development
Appendix I (b)
The Wingspread Guidelines
Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning:
A Wingspread Report
Honnet & Poulsen, 1989
Racine, WI: Johnson Foundation
1. Engages people in responsible and challenging actions
for the common good
2. Provides structured opportunities for reflecting critically
on service experiences
3. Articulates clear service and learning goals for everyone involved
4. Allows for those with needs to define those needs
5. Clarifies the responsibilities of each person and organization
6. Matches service providers and service needs (recognizing changing
7. Expects genuine, active, and sustained organizational commitment
8. Includes training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition,
9. Ensures flexible, appropriate time commitments in the best interests
10. Is committed to participation by and with diverse populations
Appendix I (c)
The CCSSO Guidelines
Provided by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993
Service Learning: What it offers to students, schools, and communities
Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers
1. Enables participants to learn and develop through active
participation in thoughtfully organized service conducted to meet
2. Is coordinated within K-12 or higher education or within
a community-based organization
3. Helps to foster civic responsibility
4. Is integrated into and enhances curriculum or educational
5. Provides structured time for reflection on the service
Appendix I (d)
The CNS Guidelines
Provided for School-Coordinated Service Learning
Corporation for National Service
Prepared by RMC Research Corporation, 1997
1. Enables participants to learn and develop through active
participation in thoughtfully organized service conducted to meet
community needs in collaboration with the s chool and community
2. Is integrated into the academic curriculum and provides
structured time for reflection (thinking, talking, writing about
the service experience)
3. Provides opportunities to use newly acquired skills and knowledge
in real-life situations in the community
4. Enhances what is taught in school by extending student
learning beyond the classroom and thereby helping to foster the
development of a sense of caring fo r others
5. Is supported by regular assessment to provide feedback
and guide improvement