Take a deeper dive into how we conducted this three-year study across 10 CSU campuses.


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.  

Study Phases

The study was conducted in four phases beginning in summer 2014 through spring 2018.  

​Summer 2014
​Fall 2014 - Fall 2016
​Winter 2015 - Fall 2017
​Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
​Set-up and instrument development
​Implementation and data collection
​ Analysis

Research Objectives & Questions

This research study is guided by the following key research questions related to the main research objectives outlined below.

Understand the landscape of SL STEM in the CSU

How is SL in STEM currently being implemented given the vast range of interpretations of SL? What are the common underlying elements in SL implementation?

To what degree are the essential elements of high quality SL present in participating courses?

See the findings regarding interpretations of service learning.

Determine how the quality of SL relates to student outcomes

Does SL in STEM disciplines have a positive impact on student success in 3 outcome areas: academic achievement, career development, and civic engagement?

To see the findings about career development, go to Student Outcomes.

To see the findings about civic engagement behavior and attitudes, go to Student Outcomes.

Are there differential results with respect to these outcome areas for students depending on the quality of the SL course experience?

Does SL in STEM disciplines promote access to the professional realm for students or bring about meaningful change to the structure of undergraduate training, particularly for underserved populations?

Measures: Faculty & Student

Multiple measures were used to assess implementation of participating STEM service learning courses.  

Pretest Measures

Posttest Measures

Other Measures

  • Student academic achievement data from Institutional Research (IR) offices including student achievement data related to grades, retention, graduation, and student demographics
  • Course syllabi: Each faculty member was required to submit a copy of their syllabus for each treatment course. These syllabi were coded by a service learning content expert according to the Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction (Heffernan, 2001). 
  • 1-Year follow-up of student civic engagement attitudes & behaviors; career interest and awareness in STEM

Study Sample


  • CSU Dominguez Hills
  • Fresno State
  • Cal State LA
  • CSU Monterey Bay
  • CSU Northridge
  • Cal Poly Pomona
  • Sacramento State
  • San Jose State University
  • CSU San Marcos
  • Stanislaus State

Faculty: 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

Course clusters: 78 course clusters. 32 Lower division, 46 higher division


Stem Disciplines In the Study

The national science foundation’s definition of what constitutes as STEM was used to recruit faculty pants; however, CCE does not include social sciences in its definition.

  • Aerospace
  • Engineering
  • Biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Engineering & Management
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geography
  • Information Technology & Communications Design
  • Manufacturing Systems

  • Marine Science
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Meteorology & Climate Science
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Technology

2,152 Students

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.

Demographic composition similar to CSU overall


​Under Represented Minority

​Pell Eligible​ ​
​Stem Majors​