An Exploratory Study of the Community Impacts of Service-Learning

Ka Hing LAU, Yin Lee Maureen CHAN, Cynthia Lok Sum YEUNG, Robin Stanley SNELL

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-128
Number of pages23
JournalMetropolitan Universities
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

This paper results from a cross-institutional project named “Cross-institutional Capacity Building for Service-Learning in Hong Kong Higher Education Institutions (PolyU4/T&L/16-19)” which aims to enhance and support the development of service-learning as an effective pedagogical strategy under the collaboration of Lingnan University, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University, and The Education University of Hong Kong. The project was launched in 2017 and has been funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government. The authors wish to thank the UGC for funding the project, and the above institutions for their participation in the process of scale development and validation.”


  • service-learning
  • community impacts
  • alignment
  • needs
  • knowledge transfer


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