Is Service-Learning Worth It?: A Mixed-Methods Study of Faculty’s Service-Learning Experiences

Joan Marie Blakey, Shirley Theriot, Mary Cazzell, Melanie Sattler


Service-learning benefits students, communities, institutions of higher learning, and faculty. Most studies have focused on the impact of service-learning on students; however, there is a dearth of mixed-methods research examining faculty use of service-learning. Using a two-phase, exploratory, mixed-methods design, the purpose of this study was to understand the factors that influenced 24 faculty fellows’ engagement with service-learning. The qualitative component examined four faculty’s in-depth experiences with service-learning to understand the meaning they assigned to those experiences and to identify key themes that affected engagement. The quantitative phase of the study explored the extent to which 20 additional faculty fellows’ service-learning experiences matched those of the four faculty fellows involved in the qualitative phase. Rigorous qualitative analysis revealed five themes: educational transformation for faculty and students, personal transformation for faculty and students, emotional investment, tenure concerns, and time commitments. Descriptive statistical analyses revealed that 90% of respondents agreed that implementing service-learning made them better and more meaningful teachers and challengers of traditional modes of education, and caused them to evaluate what it meant to be a good teacher. Eighty-five percent of faculty agreed that service-learning provides students with “real world” application and that they were learning alongside students. There were some differences among faculty with regard to emotional investment, tenure concerns, and time commitment. Service-learning is one of the most valuable tools faculty can use to create an active, engaged learning environment. Overall, faculty believed that service-learning was worth the effort.


service-learning, faculty experiences

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