International Case Studies in Service Learning: Volume 47

Cover of International Case Studies in Service Learning

Table of contents

(14 chapters)


Pages i-viii
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Part I: Integrating Service Learning Into Curriculum


The field of service-learning (SL) remains obscure as it has been variously defined and often misunderstood by many. There is a confusion in the academic literature and in practice as to what exactly service-learning means, and this confusion has been exacerbated by the way it has been misunderstood and implemented in various institutions. The aim of this volume dedicated to international case studies on service learning is to gain deeper insight into the multifaceted nature of this subject and the perplexities associated with it. The authors of this volume have adopted a holistic approach and have captured various interventions and approaches to find out the most accurate path toward gaining a complete picture of how service-learning impacts students with its emphasis on problem-solving, experiential learning, and community engagement. The volume will shed light on how successfully service-learning has been adopted to the existing curriculum with the emergence of a new breed of students who are aligned with the needs of the community and undertakes collaborative work to solve real-world issues.


As the only research-intensive university in South Africa outside a metropolitan area, Rhodes University’s mission has foregrounded community engagement (CE) for over a decade, in order to contribute to the development of the surrounding region. This involves building stronger social compacts with community partners through meaningful student engagement in socially accountable ways. In Psychology as a discipline within South Africa, there are strong imperatives for transformation, and decolonization of psychological theory, research, and therapeutic practice require re-examination of curricula, in conjunction with contextual needs for increasing access to psychological assistance. This chapter aims to illustrate ways in which we have worked to translate ideas from the Psychology discipline into CE activities, which in turn has created new knowledge.

Community-based service learning (CBSL) has been embedded into three Psychology Honors-level modules, resonating with the students’ desires to contribute to greater social justice through translating theory into “real world” activities. This research draws from the experiences of the module coordinators (the authors), providing perceptions of coordinating a CBSL module. We assess the contributions and benefits for both students and community partners, also highlighting the challenges encountered. The case studies of modules outline their philosophy, content, and value. Partnership development is described, and students’ reflections on two modules (Community Psychology and Childhood Disability & Mental Health) provide examples of some of their shifts in understanding applied psychology and increased social awareness. The accounts show how students provided assistance and support in their contributions to the different settings. Recommendations are made for enhancing CBSL, including considerations when planning for students, community partners, and faculty staff.


Service learning is a pedagogical approach that primarily focuses upon achieving student learning outcomes through meaningful community engagement. While service-learning pedagogies provide “service” to community, the view of community partners from a deficit-oriented perspective can render service learning ineffective and, at worst, potentially harmful to the community served. This chapter presents a course that uses food as a civic lens through which to engage community, instructors, and students in CRITICAL-SERVICE-LEARNING where systemic inequities that contribute to community needs are focused upon, community partners are co-creators of course design, outcomes to student learning and community benefits are equitably considered, and collective knowledge and experience of stakeholders is valued.


While research on intergenerational service learning has focused on the benefits for the students, very few studies have focused on the older adults who are the recipients of the service learning. For the current study, we were interested in the benefits of service learning for both the college students and the older adults who participated in a service-learning course. Qualitative data were collected from both the students in a sociology of aging service-learning class and the older adults who participated as recipients of the service learning. Data from the students were collected via student journals and open-ended questionnaire responses written by the students. Data from the older adults were collected via interviews by the students as well as open-ended questionnaire responses written by the older adults. The following themes emerged as benefits to students: (1) a better understanding and less fear of aging; (2) a desire to learn more about older adults; (3) a desire to engage more with older adults. The themes for the benefits to the older adults included (1) improved social connections and companionship and (2) becoming family. We found that engaging in intergenerational service-learning courses is beneficial to all those who are involved.


In Spain, despite the increase of initiatives that promote the institutionalization of the Service-Learning (SL) methodology in the university sphere, the development of SL has been slow. The academic literature has noted this normative support, and in recent years there has been a proliferation of publications collecting research results, teaching innovation projects, and theoretical reflections on the benefits of SL. However, a current situation analysis of SL in Spain is still to be performed. Hence, this chapter aims to provide an overview of the current situation of SL in Spanish universities. A qualitative systematic review of the Spanish literature on SL in higher education is carried out by searching for original articles in English and Spanish in several databases. The principles established by PRISMA declaration for systematic reviews were followed.

The study reveals an increasing trend in the number of publications on the subject, although with significant differences between territories. Likewise, most of the studies used descriptive methods. In relation to the categories analyzed, the interest of the literature in the benefits obtained by university students through their participation in the experiences stands out, compared to the benefits obtained by the target group, the university–community relationship or the promotion of university social responsibility. The 50% articles included in the review refer to the effect of SL on the curriculum through teaching practices. Others evaluate the impact of the service, analyze dissemination actions of the experiences carried out, the future challenges for research on SL in Spanish universities, and the obstacles in the implementation of the experience.


This chapter is a case study of the Joint Community-based Project (code: JCP) that is presented by the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The JCP module is a macro compulsory undergraduate course. The need to adhere to the University’s strategic social responsiveness goal motivated the integration of community engagement into the Faculty’s undergraduate programme curriculum. The free-standing project-orientated community engagement course requires students to complete at least 40 hours of fieldwork and thereafter reflect on their experiences through various assignments. Since the advent of the module in 2011, an average of 1,700 students have registered for the course annually. Students form, on average, 500 groups and partner with more than 350 different university–community partners annually. The students are required to engage in a community service project to apply their knowledge to uplift the community. They have to address a specific need in a community to benefit that society. The exposure to authentic challenges afforded by means of their projects allows students to increase their awareness of their social responsibility and learn to work in diverse teams and multidisciplinary and multilingual environments and apply various life skills during the execution of the project. During the nationwide lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, students had to identify alternative ways to assist the communities.

The projects in which the students provided assistance included the following:

  • Creating a mobile application (an app) for a project with the homeless community.

  • Assisting teachers with teaching online.

  • Developing various websites to assist learners with Mathematics.

  • Teaching learners Mathematics via WhatsApp.

  • Developing educational videos.

  • Making masks for clinics and old age homes.

  • Developing educational resources for disadvantaged pre-schools.

Creating a mobile application (an app) for a project with the homeless community.

Assisting teachers with teaching online.

Developing various websites to assist learners with Mathematics.

Teaching learners Mathematics via WhatsApp.

Developing educational videos.

Making masks for clinics and old age homes.

Developing educational resources for disadvantaged pre-schools.

The lecturer and the students had to adapt to the challenges of working on community projects off-site. The chapter will discuss the various students’ projects and the lessons the students and course coordinator learnt on changing the module’s format in a time of crisis.


Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a central backbone of (most) national economies. Research shows, that due to their smaller size, SMEs not only have comparatively less formalized, less complex, and less specialized organizational structures, but a somewhat different social character as well. It is in particular the interplay of these structural and cultural peculiarities of SMEs that is difficult to impart perceptibly in regular university courses on Small Business Management.

From a managerial science perspective, the structural as well as social characteristics of small non-profit organizations are quite similar to the above-mentioned features of SMEs. Both types of organizations usually function in a less bureaucratic and more personal way, while also being a bit more chaotic sometimes. In addition, both are often facing the challenges of severe resource scarcity as well as a lack of management competencies.

In view of these fundamental similarities between SMEs and small non-profit organizations, the practical seminar Service Learning Project was designed to provide management students at Europa-Universität Flensburg with the opportunity of experiencing typical small business work realities. Here, student teams support local non-profit organizations in meeting typical management challenges ranging from the conception and implementation of fundraising or image campaigns to internal consultancy projects. In this way, the seminar offers the possibility to deal with real-world practical management issues while concurrently strengthening students’ civic societal awareness, fostering empathy, and overcoming the oftentimes overly pronounced distance between science and life-world practice.

Part II: Community Engagement


Since the change to a democratic society and government in South Africa, lecturers and students in higher education have collaborated with community partners to establish sustainable initiatives to enhance students’ social responsibility and benefit communities. This chapter shares insights on a collaborative service-learning project where different arts-based literacies, including art, reading, poetry, human movement and writing were used to enhance reading and writing, culminating in an annual interactive Community Engagement Day on the campus of a higher education institution. The day was organized by a team of staff and students and attended by 50 learners and three teachers from three schools in the area. The chapter describes different stations and activities which included topics such as safety, human movement programs, reading and writing activities and writing of poems. The art lecturer and her team helped each learner to paint a “feather,” culminating in the theme of the day, which was to “spread your wings.” The learners and students completed evaluation forms after their experiences, followed by interviews with lecturers. Data show the value of the day for all participants, emphasizing collaboration across faculties. It shows that true, integrated effective community engagement is built on reciprocal partnerships and collaborative service-learning projects.


This chapter provides a description of an ongoing service learning initiative and exemplars of reflection on service for nursing students at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The service, health promotion, is provided to the Oglala Lakota, or Lakota, on the reservation through community screenings for adults and health education for the prevention of children’s health issues. Nursing student participants have the unique experience of learning about the Lakota culture, while also offering service via health promotion to a population that experiences ongoing health disparities and inequity. The Lakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation are examined, including the setting, history, culture, and disparities. Students improve their transcultural nursing skills and develop an awareness of their role in working toward social justice and health equity. Students blog daily during the trip and complete a final summative project as their reflection on service. The service learning initiative process is detailed, from choosing students for the experience to pre-travel student preparation to the actual travel. The reflection on service via blogging is discussed, including the evidence on the benefits of using this social media platform. The experience at Pine Ridge is also reviewed focusing on the details of the service learning initiative and cultural activity participation. Lastly, an overview of the final summative project is provided. Throughout the chapter, students’ reflections on service via blog posts are provided as evidence of the transformative quality of this initiative.


There have been great advances in our understanding of how universities effectively undertake community engagement, with research focused upon understanding community partner perspectives and outcomes (see Andrée et al., 2014; Srinivas et al., 2015; Sweatman & Warner, 2020), and democratic civic engagement (see Hall et al., 2013; Saltmarsh et al., 2009). This chapter builds on these studies to critically examine one university’s capacities to coordinate institutional-level change that supports and advances community-engagement scholarship. A small, rural, undergraduate university in Nova Scotia, Canada, called Acadia University was used as the case study site for this examination. Using an action research case study design, we gathered data from multiple sources within and outside of the University over a three-year period. Through this investigation Acadia’s community-engagement ethos was studied to understand if the University has the assets, resources, knowledge and motivation to create, implement and sustain democratic community engagement initiatives with community partners. From this data, key findings were categorized into three major themes: power and positionality of the University, institutional supports and barriers to engagement, and institutional assessment of community engagement initiatives. This chapter discusses these themes in depth using data from this study and current literature to unpack the practicalities and particularities of an institution committing to a deep, pervasive and integrated community engagement culture. Overall, this study found that Acadia’s community engagement ethos, as it moves towards democratic engagement while navigating systematic internal and external constraints, is diverse and complex. This study contributes to the legitimization of community engagement scholarship more broadly.

Name Index

Pages 177-183
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Subject Index

Pages 185-192
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Cover of International Case Studies in Service Learning
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Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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