Service-learning is a hybrid curriculum that puts students in direct contact with the needs of a community around them. Taking an experiential approach to learning, service-learning provides an outlet for students to take their education from within the classroom and apply it to a real-world setting. When developed successfully, service-learning challenges students to use the knowledge and skills they gained as a tool in tackling real world civic and social issues. To be successful, these programs must have a component that requires students to actively participate in community partnerships. Effective service-learning acts as a bridge between university and community—giving students an opportunity to grow and develop in their civic positionalities, and offering communities external support and resources they can use to move themselves forward. This relationship sounds picturesque, but the practice is far from perfect. Research demonstrates that certain examples of service-learning curriculum ignore the community perspective or lack the opportunity for students to become actively involved. These issues often result in negligible impact, passive participation, and stunted civic development. To combat these deficiencies, then, universities should adhere to an accountability framework. One way to do this is by conducting comparative analyses of existing pedagogy. By conducting a critical comparative analysis of existing service-learning research and localized service-learning pedagogies/student experience, this thesis asks what happens when you put the student experience into conversation with the pedagogical research. What can this kind of dialogue reveal about the pedagogies that the research advocates for? How do these different pedagogies spark the potential for students and community partners to thrive in a service-learning environment? How do they limit them? Asking these questions will demonstrate how to maintain that service-learning practices, regardless of university differences, follow examples of effective service-learning that's established by existing literature.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Wheeler, Stephanie


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities


Writing and Rhetoric



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date