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CSL Bibliography

What do we know about Impact on Students- Annotated Bibliography

Annotated bibliography of CSL literature and research. Download

Book Reviews

RECOMMENDED READING By Campus Compact website at www.compact.org.  

Many of these titles will be available for purchase through on-line resources for community service-learning in Higher Education


Too much of a Good Thing? Refocusing the benefits of Community-Engaged Learning

Can you ever have too much of a good thing? Some non-profits think so. Without more intentional thought to the impact of student involvement in community organizations, goodwill, positive intent and benefits may be lost to ineffective relationships and untapped potential. Wendy MacDonald explores the impact of CSL on the capacity of community-based organizations in this article from the Trends & Issues series of the HR Council for the Voluntary & Non-Profit Sector.

Click here to view the article in Adobe Acrobat pdf format. Click here to read

Enhancing Value for Nonprofit Community Partners, the paper Wendy presented to the Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research in May, 2009.

Impact of Service-Learning on Student's Sense of Civic Responsibility

Does service-learning, as a pedagogical approach, influence students’ sense of civic
responsibility? Rebecca Denby, International Exchange Coordinator at the The University of Western Ontario, explored this question in her 2008 Master of Education Thesis, also considering whether a social justice perspective of service-learning is superior to a charity perspective in influencing students’ sense of civic responsibility.

Enhancing the Capacity of Community-Based Organizations in East St. Louis in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Summer 1998; 17: 323-333. Recommended article by John Cawley, Senior Program Officer with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. Click here to read the abstract.

“Building the Service-Learning Pyramid: Engaging Campuses, Creating Citizens”: A highly recommended resource from an experienced CSL practitioner which outlines concepts and key strategies to support service-learning in post-secondary institutions. Click here to check it out!

CSL IN CANADA: A SCAN OF THE FIELD - The first report of its kind published in Canada, this 2006 scan describes emerging and established CSL programs from coast to coast.



The Learning City: CSL, sustainability, and the classroom as a social movement organization
By Dr. Rob VanWynsberghe, University of British Columbia

The Learning City believes that higher education must play a key role in critically and comprehensively addressing new solutions to local and global unsustainability.

Research in the Service of Co-Learning: Sustainability and Community Engagement,  published in the Canadian Journal of Education, reports on research conducted with a first year sociology class at the University of British Columbia to explore a unique type of community service-learning as well as useful course design strategies.

Envisioning the Classroom as a Social Movement Organization examines the impact of the Learning City Classroom in raising awareness, fostering solidarity, constructing a collective identity and ultimately how the Learning City Classroom may function as a social movement organization. This research explores the ways in which universities can contribute to social movements while also empowering students and community groups.

For more information on the Learning City Collaborative, visit www.learningcity.gnwc.ca

Rob VanWynsberghe PhD
PI- Olympic Games Impact Study
Human Kinetics and Educational Studies
Rm. 156g Aud. Annex A
1924 West Mall
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Ph) 604/822-3580
Fax) 604/822-5884


Symposium strengthens community-service learning
Taken from the Y-File produced by the Marketing & Communications Division at York University

Researchers, practitioners, students and community partners from across Canada and the US came together on March 27 and 28 for the Kitty Lundy Community-Service Learning Research Symposium hosted by the Experiential Education (EE) program in York's Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The symposium concentrated on developing opportunities for strengthening community service-learning (CSL) research in a Canadian context.

CSL is an educational approach that integrates service in the community with intentional learning activities. Members of educational institutions and community organizations work together toward mutually beneficial outcomes. CSL brings together and engages multiple stakeholders including students, faculty and organizations. In Canada, CSL is a fast-growing phenomenon – 33 colleges and universities have implemented programs, 30 of which are curricular or course-based. At York, CSL is a component of Atkinson's successful EE program (see YFile, April 24, 2007), which has matched 2,000 students with over 250 organizations in the last year and continues to expand.

"CSL builds on our growing commitment to engaging students in the classroom and linking them to the community," said Atkinson Associate Dean Martha Rogers. "By bringing together a carefully selected group of practitioners and researchers working in the field, we hoped to make significant advancements in CSL research, while pointing to possible collaborations that could take place across universities and communities."

The first part of the event was a public lecture on the evening of March 27, followed by a CSL Practitioner's Forum on March 28. The public lecture included presentations by experts in CSL research and engagement in Canada. Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton opened the evening by discussing the broader context of university-community engagement and the potential that exists for educational and research partnerships.

"The York University-Black Creek Satellite initiative plan that will launch this fall [see YFile, Oct. 13, 2006] is one anchor that will support an increasingly strong experiential education program that benefits our students and our community," said Lenton. "Students receive hands-on learning opportunities, which inform the classroom experience and a sense of civic responsibility, while working with our partners on defining societal needs and sharing expertise and skills that build the societal capacity."

Sherril Gelmon, founding chair of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, talked about why CSL is relevant in terms of strengthening communities, supporting research and innovation and affecting student development. Colleen Loomis, associate director research of the Wilfrid Laurier Centre for Community Service Learning, led the main part of the lecture, focusing on CSL research in Canada and stressing the need for further study.

"What we are trying to do is develop a healthy society and that means engaging people of all ages," said Loomis. "We're trying to impact social issues; we're trying to impact education and how it's delivered in a university setting; we're trying to impact individual lives and make a difference for people who are served by community organizations."

At the Practitioners' Forum, led by Gelmon and Loomis, participants addressed the critical question of "How do we know that our work in communities makes a difference?" Several positive outcomes emerged. Given the number of multi-stakeholders involved with CSL, the group highlighted the importance of approaching CSL research from a multidisciplinary, multi-angled perspective. They also emphasized the need for increased partnerships and knowledge exchange.

"The symposium was an ideal place to bring together experts in the field to address the gaps in research and to hear each other's struggles and success stories," said Geoff Webb, senior manager of Atkinson's EE program. "We developed a number of research items to further develop. Many of us plan on partnering in the future to generate research approaches that will enhance and contribute to CSL research in a national and international context."

The Research Symposium was made possible thanks to the Kitty Lundy Memorial Fund and the generosity of the Lundy Family.

For more information on the symposium, contact Natasha Hargovan, experiential education coordinator, at ext. 20954 or e-mail hargovan@yorku.ca

Research through Community Service Learning: The Ogden-Simpson Veggie Garden Project

By Michelle Nowak

If there were a symbol to represent Lakehead University’s Social Work students in their Community Service Learning experience with community gardening, it might very well be a triangle: Three sides equally balanced and connected, representing academia, student researchers and the community they studied. 

Students in the fourth-year research methodology class conducted qualitative evaluations of the second year of the Ogden-Simpson Veggie Garden Project, originally started by community capacity builder Margaret Stadey through a grant from Action for Neighbourhood Change and partnered with the Food Security Research Network (FSRN), through the university.

Using initial donations of seedlings and gardening equipment from the FSRN, residents volunteered their time, donated their yards, or both, to plant, tend and harvest all manner of vegetables, in over 30 gardens, all of which was shared communally with anyone who simply asked. In the spirit of the project, some gardens were grown to the back laneways so that passersby could help themselves.    

While gardeners tilled the soil, students equally broke new ground in where and how they conducted their research.

At the start of the course, many students were surprised that the library was not their first stop. Instead, course instructor and FSRN co-director, Dr. Connie H. Nelson, introduced them to their new classroom, the Ogden-Simpson neighbourhood. In Thunder Bay’s older, east side end, it’s post-war houses crowd together on quiet streets, bordered by train tracks; strip malls; legions; and, a mixture of small businesses and boarded-up buildings.

“The second week of class, I just took them down to the project and it was a miserable, cold day and I thought, ‘This is going to show their fortitude,’” says Nelson. “Of course, they didn’t come dressed for it and we were outside walking around 28 mini gardens for close to 3 hours. I could see some of them were a little shell-shocked…”

Afterward, they gathered in the nearby Regional Food Distribution Centre, where volunteer workers warmed them with hot tea, as they assembled in a circle to share their first impressions.

“That was the first ‘Ah ha’ moment for students,” says Nelson. “They reported that they began to recognize that there was a community knowledge base and that they were already learning and gathering knowledge about community belonging.”

Students used three research techniques to study how gardening increased pride in community belonging and created an enhanced sense of community health, safety and well-being. They observed participants; conducted focus groups; and, facilitated photo-visioning, a practice where residents were given cameras and asked to take pictures which communicated their point-of-view of the gardens’ effects.

They also used more unconventional means to gather information. Some questionnaires included intricate drawings of gardens and people; other participants were invited to relay findings aurally, such as through song. 

In late January, the class invited residents, business owners and any service providers to the area to partake in a series of final focus groups, referred to as, “coffee and conversation”, in order to conduct an evaluation of last year’s project.

Nelson says that an equally important outcome was the effect on the gardeners and residents who were part of the research. “By having the students capturing the activities and outcomes and sharing them back the community,” says Nelson, “It empowered the community to recognize their successes and have the impetus to continue.” 

For more information, contact:
Connie H. Nelson, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Food Security Research Network
Professor, School of Social Work, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Master of Public Health and Forest Sciences - Ph.D.

Food Security Network Logo



By Dr. Scot D. Evans, Assistant Professor and Shannon Cushing, MA student
Community Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University

Aiming to help students better connect community service activities to course content, Dr. Scot D. Evans, Assistant Professor of Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Shannon Cushing, MA student in Community Psychology are currently conducting a research study on Community Service-Learning (CSL) reflection practices. They have collected successful reflection practices and assessment methods reported by CSL instructors across North America, are applying various reflection and assessment strategies within an undergraduate course, and are developing an assessment framework that will be useful for any instructors who wish to implement structured reflection and assessment practices into their courses.

In September of 2007, a call for participation in an online survey was sent out to CSL instructors through two North American service-learning listservs: the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning listserv and the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse’s Service-Learning in Higher Education listserv. This survey was designed to explore current reflection and assessment strategies being used by instructors who use CSL as a part of their academic pedagogy.

Dr. Evans and Shannon Cushing were excited to see such a strong response to his survey from across North America, with 36 instructors and coordinators responding over the span of approximately one week. Respondents recognized the importance of structure in reflection activities, saying that unstructured reflection activities and/or the absence of reflection activities did not advance their students’ learning as strongly as structured reflection activities. Many creative strategies for reflection were offered including student presentations, group discussions, journals, essays & papers, and internet-based reflection. Reported benefits of structured reflection activities included: increased learning, deeper understanding of classroom material, new learning, and increased capacity for critical thinking.

Dr. Evans is now implementing structured reflection activities and assessment practices in one of his own courses with an enrolment of 150. Approximately 50% of his students have consented to allowing their participation in his course to be monitored by an external research team. Dr. Evans is implementing structured thought papers, ejournals, and discussion groups and developing a scoring assessment tool that can be applied to all three reflection activities. His external research team is tracking these activities, and Dr. Evans and his research team will be evaluating the effectiveness of his selected reflection activities and assessment tool early in 2008, following completion of the course.

For more information, contact Shannon Cushing at shannoncushing@hotmail.com. View the summary report of survey findings published online at: http://www.wlu.ca/documents/26502/Summaryreport_CSLreflectionSurvey.pdf.



By Cathy Beaumont, Mainstay Consulting

Partnerships with community organizations lie at the heart of community service-learning. But how well do we know potential partners? How can we reach out to these organizations in a way that will be welcomed?

These and similar questions have formed the basis for CACSL’s commitment to develop its first-ever strategic communication plan. This plan will set out communication objectives, target audiences, messages, strategies and tactics that will improve CACSL’s ability to support and facilitate community service-learning across Canada.

CACSL has contracted with outside communication experts to help develop this communication plan.

The first, research phase of the project is in progress now, but there is already much to report. Our consultants conducted interviews with 21 people who are close to CACSL: Board members, McConnell program representatives, funders and community partner organizations. They asked for impressions of community service-learning, benefits and barriers to involvement in CSL, the image and positioning of CACSL and key messages for CACSL to delivery to target audiences.

Here are some of the highlights of the interviews, with verbatim comments from interviewees.

Overall, interviewees were fervent in their support of CSL and their admiration of CACSL. Most interviewees said that CSL is an active reflection of values they hold around education.

Interviewees said they became/stay involved with CSL because they see the benefits to students and to the community.

“(CSL) teaches students a respect for the community – not all knowledge is in books or from faculty.”

“…skills stay with them forever.”

“(we are) offering students a valuable experience.”

“(I) stayed involved for the link between the university and the community.”

When asked to give their impressions of CSL, interviewees offered a total of 83 unique descriptors. These range from action and activity through experiential learning, contributions to community, ingenuity and partnership. While overwhelmingly positive, the number of different descriptors suggests that perspectives on CSL are varied and possibly unfocussed.

Regardless of the length of a person’s experience with CSL (which ranged from a couple of years to a couple of decades), familiarity with CSL leads to:

We asked interviewees to describe the benefits of involvement in CSL and some of the barriers to this involvement.

Benefits for community organizations

Barriers to community organizations

Overall, the interviews provided a rich source of opinion, reflection and insight for CACSL. The research phase of the communication planning process is continuing, and additional results will be reported as they are available.


Research on Communication in CSL partnerships

By Dr. Tania Smith
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Communication and Culture
University of Calgary

A year and a half ago, I began a long-term research project to provide community service learning coordinators, student leaders, and postsecondary teachers with uniquely Canadian communication resources for program development and sustainability. 

Between teaching and serving on committees, I have somehow found time to 1) discover some Canadian CSL communication research needs, 2) submit an article to a service learning journal, and 3) plan an upcoming CSL communication panel at the Congress of the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences in Saskatoon in May. 

1) After networking with colleagues at the CACSL symposium in Fall 2005, I and my research assistant personally visited three western Canadian service learning program leaders to get to know them and to find out which communication issues interest them.  I discovered we are all intrigued by the differences between US and Canadian contexts for CSL, and we need to know how to clarify the scope and aims of community service learning for our own communities. 

2) My journal article (undergoing peer review) lays the foundation for my future research by portraying service learning communication as “community-building rhetoric.”  Even if most of us haven’t heard the word “rhetoric” used often or very positively, and we usually aren’t aware of practicing it, the fact is, strong communities live and breathe through rhetoric!  Rhetoric, in case you didn’t know, is the advanced study, teaching, and practice of persuasive and informative communication.  It’s my academic discipline.  I show how many service learning writers are “rhetoricians” who advise and caution us about the strategies and limitations of persuading people to collaborate in community service learning.  Reflection on our rhetoric strengthens what we do.

3) This year I am working alongside an honors student and PhD student who are researching service learning and have agreed to present on our panel.  I will also be co-presenting with Lorraine Woollard from University of Alberta’s CSL program, and with my former CSL research assistant, now an MA student planning her own community based research in communication.  The conference program will eventually be announced at this website: http://cattw-acprts.mcgill.ca/en/current_conference.htm . My presentation will be the seed of a future article on local resources and flexible strategies for CSL community-building rhetoric.


By Heather Carson, Community Support Coordinator
St FX Service Learning

As we move into our second decade of service learning at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, we are refining our program by developing a model that assesses the value of service learning partnerships from a community perspective. With support obtained from the JW McConnell Family Foundation, we hired a Community Support Coordinator to conduct a literature review; meet with community partners; consult with service learning representatives in the United States and Canada, and develop evaluation tools. For more information on the Project, click here.

Several challenges emerged while developing the evaluation tools. First, research on the impact of service learning on community agencies and the larger community is relatively scarce. Second, selecting appropriate methodologies presented challenges. Rigorous, quantitative methodologies and attempts to control variables can contradict efforts to institutionalize service learning. Community-based and participatory research methodologies are time consuming and can hinder attempts to reduce costs to community partners. Finally, the lengthy, formal letter of invitation to participate required by the University Research Ethics Board deterred students and community partners from responding to the questionnaire.

Qualitative and quantitative data were obtained from community partners, students, and faculty through questionnaires and interviews. Despite the challenges noted above, community partners responded to the questionnaire with a 74% return rate. Preliminary analysis of the data suggests that at StFX the benefits of service learning far outweigh the costs. Community partners noted that the most significant benefits were improved relationships with the university, increased awareness of the work of the agency, more one-on-one time with clients, and an added youth perspective. The most significant cost was the time involved in orienting and monitoring students, especially when there was a poor match between the student and agency. Over 63% of the respondents viewed the clients as receiving the bulk of the benefits, while 76.5% said that the staff paid the costs. The information obtained provided baseline data. For the duration of the five year grant, we will continue to look at and evaluate new ways of increasing benefits for communities while lessening the costs associated with service learning.