Service Learning Network

Student Benefits

Service learning has been shown to be related to beneficial student outcomes in the following domains:

Developmental Outcomes

Appreciation of Diversity

  • Reduction of negative stereotypes
  • Realization that previously-unfamiliar others are "like me"
  • Increased appreciation of other cultures
  • Increased tolerance

Personal Development

  • Increased self-knowledge
  • Spiritual growth
  • Career development
  • Satisfaction of helping others
  • Improved self-efficacy

Interpersonal Development

  • Improved ability to work with others
  • Development of leadership skills
  • Increased connection to community
  • Improved connections to faculty members and other students

Application of Knowledge

  • Students report learning more and being more highly motivated to work hard in service learning courses
  • Students report "deeper, more complex understanding of issues," as compared to their outcomes from traditional coursework
  • Students report greater ability for real-world application of knowledge acquired in service learning courses
  • Students demonstrate "increased complexity in analysis of both causes and solutions to social problems" as a result of well-integrated service learning

Critical Thinking

  • Students report greater openness to new ideas as a result of participation in service learning
  • Students participating in service learning courses in which service tasks are closely related with course material and in which reflective discussion of service plays a significant role in the course structure ("highly-integrated" service learning) demonstrate significant gains in critical thinking ability

New Perspectives

  • Approximately one-third of service learning participants report gaining a new perspective on social issues
  • Students demonstrate increased belief in the importance of social justice, the need for change in public policy, and the need to personally influence the political process
  • Students engaged in highly-integrated service learning demonstrate a shift from believing the causes of and solutions to social problems lie within individuals themselves to adopting a broader view which takes into account both individual as well as societal and systemic factors 

Engagement and Curiosity

  • Students report being more genuinely interested in and curious about topics and ideas they work with through service
  • Students report that their experiences with real people and real problems contribute significantly to their internal motivation for learning more about these issues
  • Students report improved ability to recall material mastered through service learning courses, as this information is anchored in personal experience and relationships with other people


Source: Eyler, J. & Giles, D. E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Page last modified August 3, 2011