Reflections by Community Partners of Hong Kong-based Universities on Key Process Variables in Service-Learning : An Exploratory Study

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

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


This research study aims to validate the typology of process variables salient in service-learning projects proposed by Snell and Lau (2023) with empirical evidence. The study employed a qualitative approach by interviewing partner organization representatives (PORs) from 11 local and two international community partner organizations (CPOs), which had a history of collaboration in various service-learning projects with four universities based in Hong Kong. Our analysis identified five key factors that were perceived to be conducive to the success of service-learning projects. These positive factors were: student ownership and initiative, positive roles for PORs and their staff; an established collaborative relationship between the CPO and university; university unit-provided support and preparation for students; and instructor commitment. These factors confirmed several variables in the Snell and Lau (2023) typology, and relationships among these factors were identified. Interviewees identified factors impeding effective service, including the absence of some success factors, failure to align community/CPO needs and instructor requirements, and insufficient time parameters for the service. In our discussion of the findings, we infer some possible causal relationships among the positive factors. Limitations of the present study are discussed, and directions for further research are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-53
JournalMetropolitan Universities
Issue number2
Early online date20 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

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, Hong Kong Baptist University, The Hong Kong Polytechnic 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.


  • service-learning
  • process varaibles
  • project effectiveness
  • evaluation


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