The Community Impacts of Service-Learning and Key Factors that Increase the Likelihood of Positive Impacts

Yin Lee Maureen CHAN, Ka Hing Calvin LAU, Robin Stanley SNELL

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsAbstractpeer-review


Service-learning is considered a powerful pedagogy for developing students’ 21st Century skills and awareness, but research on its impact in meeting contemporary community needs has been scarce. We evaluated community impacts of diverse service-learning projects in Hong Kong and identified factors perceived to increase the likelihood of positive impacts. Semi-structured one-to-one interviews and focus group interviews were conducted with 14 representatives of NGOs or social enterprises that had hosted service-learning projects by students from local universities. Respondents reported positive impacts of service-learning that had improved the services of their organizations, in the form of tangible resources, such as books and new programmes, along with intangible resources, such as increased energy levels among staff, and improved organizational image. The positive impacts extended to end-beneficiaries, such as expanded social networks and enhanced self-esteem. Respondents also mentioned ‘dark side’ impacts that they attributed to: unprepared, uncommitted and/or poorly marshalled students; misalignment between course/instructor objectives and community needs; and poor synchrony between university parameters and community needs. Our emergent model identifies how positive community impacts stem from appropriate design and implementation of service-learning projects, from open communication between stakeholders about expectations and resource, and from careful preparation and marshalling of the students. We did not collect data from representatives of organizations that have discontinued their service-learning partnerships with universities, or from students and end-beneficiaries. Future research could trace impacts throughout a sustained service-learning partnership, since impacts from particular projects may reflect a history of process elements paving the way to those outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020
EventInternational Conference on Learning and Teaching 2020 -
Duration: 2 Dec 20204 Dec 2020


ConferenceInternational Conference on Learning and Teaching 2020
Internet address


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