Comments from students’ reflection papers confirmed that the
project helped them connect with the course material. One student
wrote: “Being able to go and see local bird species was valuable and
gave more perspective than learning about the birds secondhand
through research alone.” Another commented: “This service-learning
project was a new and unique experience for me and I really enjoyed
it. I learned about other careers and opportunities in biology. I also
found that a lot of what we learned in class applied to Ganondagan.”
A third wrote: “From this project I learned a lot about the bird species
described in the book. I also improved my time management skills as
well as professional and communication skills.”
We used several tools to assess and compare service learning on
an institutional scale, and across departments and disciplines. These
included student reflection papers, a student impact assessment, a
community impact assessment, and a faculty impact assessment.
The director of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement
distributes a common student impact assessment survey to all service-learning faculty. A community impact assessment and a faculty impact
assessment were administered online to obtain data on faculty perceptions of students’ learning and the impact of their work on meeting
community needs (these assessment surveys are available in the Supplemental Material).
Responses to the student impact assessment survey indicated
that students accomplished our three civic engagement learning
goals: intellectual engagement, application of knowledge, and communication (Table 4).
To better assess the impact of our particular project, the student
impact assessment also contained open-ended questions. For the complete list of questions, see Supplemental Material). Examples include
• How did the service-learning project help you understand the
• What was the biggest growth area as a result of service learning?
• What impact do you feel your work had on meeting the needs
of your community partner?
• What suggestions do you have to improve this experience?
Answers to these questions were generally positive and consistent with comments in the reflection paper:
• “The content we learn in class about invasive species and
other ecosystem disruptors like human activity can be seen
at the park and made me realize the significance of conserva-
• “Being able to go out into the field and survey [wildlife] for this
project helped me to apply knowledge of their behavior learned
during the course.”
• “I enhanced my communication skills since we were always
communicating with our instructor, group members, other
classmates, and the professionals at the park.”
• One student (out of how many?) said she is now considering a
career in conservation.
The community partners also indicated on the community
partner survey that the professionalism of the students was high
and that they valued the students’ work. For example: “These students were professional and driven. The work they produced rivals
what I would expect from a hired company to create what we
wanted.” The community partners stated that the students’ work
met an identified need, will be used by the organization, and would
not have been completed without the support of the students: “The
products the students created will be used in almost all of our outreach and events that we host throughout the summer months.”
To close the loop, suggestions for improvement will also be taken
into consideration for the next iteration of the course. Some students
were less clear on the relevance of the project to course goals, and
others suggested increased organization of the experience and a greater
number of visits. Even though the project plan provided academic
benchmarks, arranging mid-semester meetings with the community
partners before the semester begins could enhance organization, and
more frequent on-site visits could increase engagement. Clearly communicating the connection between the service-learning experience
and academic content could reinforce the centrality of the experience
for meeting course goals.
Table 4. Student impact assessment results. Students were asked questions on the items added meaning
(“I gained knowledge, skills, or awareness that has added meaning to this course”), initiative (“Service
learning strengthened my ability to be accountable and take initiative for my assigned work”),
cooperation (“Service learning strengthened my collaborative skills as a term member and taught me how
to work together with supervisors and clients”), communication skills (“I was able to effectively express,
listen, and adapt to others when communicating with clients and supervisors”), project support
(“I received the support I needed to complete the service-learning project”), and future community service
(“I plan on doing further community service work on my own in the future”).
Agree Agree Uncertain Disagree
Addedmeaning 0.00% 21.43% 64.29% 7.14% 7.14% 0.00%
Initiative 0.00% 42.86% 42.86% 14.29% 0.00% 0.00%
Cooperation 0.00% 35.71% 50.00% 7.14% 7.14% 0.00%
Communicationskills 0.00% 42.86% 42.86% 7.14% 7.14% 0.00%
Projectsupport 0.00% 21.43% 35.71% 42.86% 0.00% 0.00%
Future community service 0.00% 7.14% 50.00% 28.57% 7.14% 7.14%