An Exploratory Study of the Community Impacts of Service-Learning


  • Ka Hing Lau Lingnan University
  • Maureen Yin Lee Chan The Education University of Hong Kong
  • Cynthia Lok Sum Yeung Lingnan University
  • Robin Stanley Snell The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong



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.

Author Biographies

Ka Hing Lau, Lingnan University

Ka Hing Lau was a Senior Project Officer in the Office of Service-Learning of Lingnan University (currently a Project Associate in the Service-Learning and Leadership Office of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University). He has a MPhil in Psychology and has years of experience conducting both academic and business research. His current research interests include developing measurement instruments for assessing impacts arising from service-learning, faculty engagement in service-learning, e-service-learning, training and development, and work-from-home.

Maureen Yin Lee Chan, The Education University of Hong Kong

Maureen Yin Lee Chan is engaging in research work in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of The Education University of Hong Kong and previously worked at Lingnan University in the capacity of senior project consultant. She has professional experience in training and human resource development.  Her research interests are student learning and development, service-learning and leadership. Her teaching interests include human resource management, organizational behavior and management. She received her PhD from Lancaster University and her work appears in journals such as Journal of Management Education, Leadership & Organization Development Journal and Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning.

Cynthia Lok Sum Yeung, Lingnan University

Cynthia Lok Sum Yeung is a graduating student at Lingnan University, majoring in translation, with research interests in intangible cultural heritage, construction training and service-learning. She has developed great interest in service-learning when she took service-learning courses in her first year of study. Since then, she has served as a research assistant and service-learning teaching assistant for the Office of Service-Learning at Lingnan University.

Robin Stanley Snell, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong

Robin Stanley Snell is currently a Visiting Professor in the Department of Management at The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. Before retiring from Lingnan University, he had served there as Head of the Management Department, Director of Business Programmes, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Director of Service-Learning. His research and teaching interests include service-learning, managerial and organizational learning, leadership and strategic management, and business ethics.


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