An Exploratory Study of the Community Impacts of Service-Learning
Keywords:service-learning, community impacts, alignment, needs, knowledge transfer
Research on community impacts from service-learning has been scarce, yet this area is worth exploring in order to understand how and why service-learning can make a difference. The current research sought to validate a conceptual framework (Lau & Snell, 2020), which categorizes the impacts of service-learning on community partner organizations (CPOs) and on end-beneficiaries. Under the framework, impacts on end-beneficiaries can arise directly from service-learning interventions, but can also arise indirectly as a result of impacts on CPOs. For the research, semi-structured, one-to-one or focus group interviews were conducted with 13 CPO representatives, seeking their perceptions of positive and negative impacts of service-learning. Most described impacts were positive, including, for CPOs: achieving project goals to further the CPO’s mission; augmenting resources of the CPO; and gaining knowledge, insights, ideas and techniques. These positive impacts for CPOs appear to reflect three factors: alignment between service-learning project goals and the CPO’s mission; mutual recognition of students’ potential for transferring knowledge from universities to CPOs; and mutual understanding of students’ status as semi-outsiders, free to challenge existing practices or systems. Further studies can explore impacts from the end-beneficiary's perspective, and adopt longitudinal and action research approaches.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Ka Hing Lau, Yin Lee Maureen Chan, Cynthia Lok Sum Yeung, Robin Stanley Snell
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