Convergent/Divergent Perceptions of Faculty and Community Partners’ Collaborative Service-Learning Projects


  • Helen Rosenberg University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • Anna Statham


This qualitative study of the perceptions of pairs of faculty and community partners who worked together on service-learning projects at two comprehensive state universities in midsize midwestern communities reveals a good deal of convergence on their understandings of the goals, work done, and products/outcomes of their projects. However, significant divergence existed on different aspects of these projects based on partner involvement with one side of the exchange or the other. Faculty emphasized impacts on students and often seemed unaware of the impacts on organizations and community, while community partners seemed more focused on their organizations and the community more broadly. As service-learning practitioners are urged to create sustainable, egalitarian partnerships that incorporate the views of both parties, these results suggest that partners make explicit their goals so that each may benefit from students' work, and at the same time create a meaningful relationship, where faculty and students can understand the impacts on community valued by their community partners. This seems to require extensive debriefing at the end of projects. Such a step would both enhance the value of participation for the partners and enrich students’ and faculty views of the projects’ worth, increasing sustainability of the relationship over time.

Author Biography

Anna Statham

Anne Statham is Professor Emerita of Sociology at both University of Southern Indiana and University of Wisconsin-Parkside and was founding Director of Service-Learning programs on both campuses. She has published many scholarly articles and books on various topics, including the process and efficacy of service learning, women and poverty, gender issues, and environmental sociology. She has taught many service-learning courses and led major community engagement projects.