While the CSU system graduates nearly 120,000 undergraduate and graduate students into the workforce each year and 13,000 students participate in nearly several hundred STEM service-learning courses, California does not have data on how service learning impacts common measures of student success, nor is it differentiated by type of student.
Improving the information available about the relationship between service-learning courses and students' academic development has the potential to inform faculty preparation along with support for students' overall academic success, career development and civic engagement. This deeper understanding has the capacity to inform curriculum standards, statewide policy, and formulas for funding and facilities allocation.
Find a detailed description of the study layout and timeline.
Learn more about what we set out to discover.
View new research instruments designed to examine service learning.
Learn more about who participated and what disciplines were included.
Service learning is an innovative form of experiential education in which learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students work with others through a process of applying what they are learning to community issues. Students reflect upon their experiences as they seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves
(Eyler & Giles, 1999).
In 2012, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) "Engage to Excel" report stated that “one million more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) college graduates are needed in the next ten years for the U.S. to remain a global leader in science and engineering. As the largest producer of college graduates in STEM fields and the most diverse university system in the country, the California State University system plays a critical role in meeting this need.
The CSU believes that service learning can provide engaging and meaningful experiences for our STEM students while actively creating a more skilled STEM workforce. A dynamic process, service learning is a collaborative experience that promotes skills associated with teamwork, community involvement and citizenship. Since 1998, the CSU has seen a 114 percent increase in service-learning courses across all disciplines.
The chart below highlights how service learning in STEM disciplines has developed since the CSU began a systemwide effort in 2010 to increase the number of STEM service-learning courses.
The original research study used a quasi-experimental design and mixed-methods approach to investigate the research questions. Due to a smaller sample size than expected, particularly in the control group, the original data collection efforts were enhanced by adding
secondary data analyses using other CSU students that were not in the treatment group as carefully matched controls. With this new matched group longer term study outcomes were compared.
The study was conducted in four phases beginning in summer 2014 through spring 2018.
This research study is guided by the following key research questions related to the main research objectives outlined below.
Multiple measures were used to assess implementation of participating STEM service-learning courses.
Eight essential elements of service learning emerged from the literature, student ratings and initial analysis.
The research team culled the literature on service learning and identified 15 key areas defined by the field such as reflection community need and linkages to learning outcomes. Survey items were developed for faculty and student surveys with the goal of statistically combining items into a smaller number of scales and determining which items were strongly related. Because no clear pattern emerged, the research team reviewed the survey items again and statistically tested whether item groupings represented distinct components of quality. Six components of quality were initially identified.
Student ratings were then used to develop internal consistencies for components that had two of more questions, determining the relationship between the items that belonged together. A reliability analysis was performed to determine multiple items for most categories outlined in the table below.
Future work would require researchers to develop more items in each category to increase the consistency of each element. See
Year 3 Report for more information.
Student Civic Engagement and STEM Career Interest Survey included the
Civic Engagement scale (Doolittle & Faul, 2013) and
STEM Career Interest scale (ITEST Program 2010).
A descriptive overview of participants in the study are outlined below.
The National Science Foundation's definition of what constitutes as STEM was used to recruit faculty participants; however, CCE does not include social sciences in its definition.
47 faculty members were recruited, some of whom taught multiple sections of the same course during the same term; therefore, faculty and student data across courses were combined, or clustered together.
Of the total number of student respondents, 2,065 were unique students (i.e., participated in the study one time), about 80% of whom were in the treatment group.