Service learning

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Service learning is a teaching method where community service is integrated into the curriculum to provide a richer academic experience. This method has been shown to increase participative learning, increase student awareness of "real world" concerns, increase student civil engagement, and increase diversity in the classroom.

Examples of Service Learning


Who: Alexander W. Astin, Lori J. Vogelgesang, Elaine K. Ikeda, Jennifer A. Yee

What: A study demonstrating that service learning results in higher academic performance as well as increased student interest and retention.

How: Through the analysis of statistical data collected from a national sample of baccalaureate-granting colleges and universities, as well as from interviews and feedback from students and faculty. The data was collected from a number of fields (including economics), and service learning was incorporated through a number of ways, although typically through the community service method.

Evidence: An executive summary of the study can be found at How Service Learning Affects Students Executive Summary

The full study can be found How Service Learning Affects Students

How to Incorporate Service Learning

Models of Service Learning

Community Service

Student based instruction

Action Research

Community Problem Solving Seminars (COMPS)


Link:  Source: LIFT

Since service learning is a relatively new technique to be used in the field of economics, there has yet to be trial based studies comparing service learning to traditional methods.

Although, studies of this nature have been conducted in other fields, which is demonstrated through a study conducted by Berston and Younkin. In their study, Berston and Younkin compared courses with two cohorts. One section was required to participate in 20 hours of service learning in addition to the normal course material, while the other just followed the normal curriculum (subjects consisted of Sociology, American History, College Preparatory English, and Introduction to English Composition). The study resulted in significantly higher course grades and reported higher satisfaction for those students whom were in the service learning section of the class. The study can be found here A great resource demonstrating the benefits of service learning can be found here


Service learning is a teaching technique that is still in its infancy in the field of economics, but is one which can be very fruitful. Through the concrete experiences and application of economic concepts, students have the ability to understand that quantitative analysis alone cannot encompass the myriad of factors influencing economic issues. By incorporating service learning into a curriculum, students who typically may not respond positively to the traditional chalk and talk method, (which tends to be underrepresented students (Bartlett 1996)), will have the ability to flourish.


Bartlett, R. L. 1996. "Discovering Diversity in Introductory Economics." Journal of Economics Perspectives 10 (Spring): 141-53.

McGoldrick, KimMarie, and Andrea L. Ziegert. Putting the Invisible Hand to Work: Concepts and Models for Service Learning in Economics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2002. Print.