Service learning in K-12: Is it effective to improve student outcomes? (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this time I picked this study from this biweekly newsletter written up by Marta Pellegrini, University of Cagliari (Italy). But one could wonder if this is the main point of service learning?

Service learning for K-12 students is an educational strategy that involves a deliberate and explicit connection between community service and academic instruction. The aim is to link instruction to practical issues by including service activities and time for reflection. A recent Campbell Systematic review looked at the effect of service learning interventions on student outcomes in K-12. The review included experimental studies, and outcomes of interest were academic success and personal/social skills.

Results showed that the average effect size for service learning was +0.09 on student grade point average, with a higher effect in math (+0.21) than in English (+0.04). Other outcomes showed small positive results: reducing absenteeism in terms of days (+0.03), improving self-esteem (+0.13) and locus of control (+0.07).

The results do not suggest a definitive positive impact of service learning on student outcomes. The authors conclude that there is the need for further experimental studies on the effectiveness of service learning.

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