Measuring impacts of service learning on students and those they serve can seem like a challenge, but the key is integrating the assessment into the course the same way service-learning activities are integrated into it. In true curriculum-based service-learning, part of a participating student’s grade is based on the research, writing, presenting, teaching, creating, building, planting, translating, measuring, calculating, etc.—that s/he does through the service. These activities are all common examples of things that teachers assess in ‘regular’ classes, and so existing assessment and measurement systems can be used.
In addition, teachers in successful projects often include self-assessments for students, in which students grade and rate themselves about what they have learned, using rubrics or other tools. Having students assess the impact of their service on the community not only removes that responsibility from the teacher, but it also has students practice another useful skill and expands the scope of their service-learning.
Surveys are very useful for measuring qualitative impacts and a valuable tool for assessing the affective, attitudinal/motivational, and civic impacts of service-learning projects. Florida Learn & Serve will provide civic engagement and achievement motivation surveys to all awardees; many other survey models are available from the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse at www.servicelearning.org.
Examples of evaluations from 13 actual Florida Learn & Serve projects—with samples from elementary, middle, high, and special populations—are at the following link:
CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: FL&S Evaluation Samples in PDF or FL&S Evaluation Samples in WORD.
These examples can be useful for both new and experienced project sites and provide a sense of the range of both service-learning assessment and the many ways it can positively impact students and those they serve.
Methods of Evaluating Student Performance through Service-Learning, produced by faculty at the University of Florida with funding from Florida Learn & Serve, has many basic tools for capturing both outputs (numbers) and impacts of service-learning projects.
Making Knowledge Productive - Skills and Tools for Evaluating Community Service-Learning in Machusetts may also be useful to you in preparing your evaluation plans.
Florida Learn & Serve, 1997-98 Outcomes and Correlations with, 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97 - presents results of a multi-year study on the impacts of youth service-learning participation on multiple behavioral measures including attendance and discipline referrals.
Study of the Community, Higher Education, and School Partnerships (CHESP) 2003 - a multiple case study of CHESP partnerships in six states, conducted by Brandeis University & Abt Associates with funding from Learn & Serve America. (1.03 MB)
Looking for guidance on evaluation of the impacts of service-learning? Check out Methods of Evaluating Student Performance through Service-Learning, produced by faculty at the University of Florida with funding from Florida Learn & Serve. You may also find Making Knowledge Productive - Skills and Tools for Evaluating Community Service-Learning in Massachusetts useful in preparing your evaluation plans.
(Some of the above files require the free Adobe Reader.)