First-Year Student Motivations for Service-Learning: An Exploratory Investigation of Minority Student Perceptions

Andrew J. Pearl, Robert K Christensen


As a high-impact educational practice (Kuh, 2008), service-learning can have a transformational effect on students, communities, instructors, and higher education institutions. However, despite cautions (Butin, 2006, p. 481), student enrollment in service-learning remains overwhelmingly White and female (Jacoby, 2015), creating a potential enrollment gap in a pedagogy intended to be inclusive. In this article the authors explore what might cause minority students to pursue service-learning, building on research that suggests that student traits and values impact the awareness of and disposition to enroll in service-learning (Christensen, Stritch, Kellough, & Brewer, 2015; Pearl & Christensen, 2017). Through qualitative methodology, the authors work to better understand students’ traits in relation to their interest and enrollment in service-learning. The findings, relevant to both service-learning theory and practice, suggest the importance of purposeful consideration of how service-learning can truly promote social justice, democratic values, and equality.


service-learning; college student motivations

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