Study on Students’ Experiences with Service Learning Synthesis Report – Synthesis Report

The report presents the Study on student experiences with service learning (SL) on the following European higher education institutions: University Politehnica of Bucharest (UPB), University of Vienna (UNIVIE), Dublin City University (DCU), Kaunas Technical University (KTU) and University of Porto (UP). The SL courses were offered by different institutions and departments of the Engage Students’ project partners with a total of 18 SL projects implemented during the 2020-2021 academic year. The study on these experiences included a blog and a questionnaire for analysing students’ experiences with this approach, as well as a survey completed by teachers at the end of the experience where they shared information about each course and their reflection on the experience.

The monitoring of SL projects in what concerns students was based on a longitudinal research design to observe changes in students’ development using a questionnaire applied in two waves: at an early stage and after the completion of the SL project (e.g., roughly pre- on October/ February and post-test on January/May for the 1st and 2nd semester, respectively). The student questionnaire addressed three domains of students’ development –  personal, academic and civic – that are frequently recognized as learning goals in SL projects (Ash & Clayton, 2009).

Project staff members and teachers who were involved in the project provided guidance to the students during their service learning projects and there were regular meetings in class to reflect these projects. Students maintained a diary throughout their courses, and shared some of their views on a student blog. The analysis of qualitative data involved a thematic analysis both for teachers’ surveys and student’s blog entries; for the questionnaires, a statistical analysis was performed.

The results are organised in three sections: teachers’ perceptions of SL courses main challenges;  students’ experiences with SL – analysis of testimonies in the blog; and students’ experiences with SL – analysis pre- and post-test questionnaires. Results show a very positive reception by both teachers and students, with perceived gains in students’ academic, personal and civic development and on the reinforcement of links between universities and communities.