Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Service-Learning & College Student Success

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Service-Learning & College Student Success

Article excerpt


This study investigates the linkages between service-learning, academic and social integration and undergraduate persistence. Results reveal that first-year college students who engaged in service-learning had significantly higher levels of integration into university communities than those who did not. These data support the notion that service-learning is an effective strategy to engage undergraduates intellectually and socially during their first year in college.


The higher education community has produced much research regarding the impact of service-learning on undergraduates' development of knowledge and intellectual skills, perceptions of moral development or personal efficacy, and civic or social responsibility among other factors. Scholars and practitioners, alike, have demonstrated the connections between involvement in service-learning and undergraduates' cognitive and emotional development (see for a review Eyler, Giles, Stenson & Gray, 2001). Only recently have scholars considered the role of Tinto's theory of student departure for examining the impact of service-learning on undergraduates' perceptions of integration into an educational institution's intellectual and social communities (Mundy & Eyler, 2002). Understanding the relationship between service-learning and integration is particularly important in light of the few empirical studies demonstrating a positive relationship between service-learning and retention. In a recent review of literature, Eyler and colleagues suggested higher retention rates for students who participated in service-learning experiences (Eyler et al., 2001; Mundy & Eyler, 2002).

The current study provides a unique opportunity to fill a lacuna in the literature by exploring the interconnectedness of service-learning, undergraduate academic and social integration, and individual student persistence. The current research is particularly appropriate given the emphasis being placed on applied learning as an influential and powerful programmatic component in undergraduate education (Campus Compact, 2004; Ehrlich, 2005) and its link to persistence (see Eyler et al., 2001; Mundy & Eyler, 2002). Provided this rationale, the goal of the current study is to examine the unique contribution of engagement in service-learning on full-time, first time freshmen's perceptions of academic and social integration into a mid-sized, public doctoral research extensive university, and their subsequent enrollment over time.

Engagement in Service-Learning

The concept of service-learning is multi-faceted. It can be defined as a teaching and learning pedagogy, connecting discipline-specific theories to real-life problems or issues; a practical and direct application of resources from an educational institution to a community to address a defined need, with the expectation that, in turn, students will learn from their experience; and, a mechanism for translating what we know about civics and our country's history into action (Goldsmith, 2005). No matter how it is defined, engagement in service-learning is thriving among certain segments of our nation's population. While only 30 percent of all of our country's citizens volunteer to serve their fellow citizens, the "9/11 generation" (young adults, 18-24 years) has rallied around the national tragedy of September 11, 2001 and shown a sustained spike in community-mindedness, connection, trust in others, as well as other civic behaviors such as voting (Goldsmith, 2005; Putnam, 2005). To respond to the civic mindedness of this generation, and young people in general, educational institutions from elementary schools to colleges and universities have embraced service-learning as a valuable mechanism for engaging their students in the academic enterprise and the larger community.

Service-learning as a Strategy for Student Success

At the same time that higher education administrators are promoting service-learning as a powerful force that has a significant and positive impact on its students, faculty, and neighboring communities, administrators are also challenged by a growing concern with declining undergraduate retention and graduation rates. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.