A study of community-based learning and academic gains in college students
Andrew Furco, Associate Professor and Associate Vice President for Public Engagement, University of Minnesota [afurco@umn.edu]
Ronald Huesman, Jr., Associate Director of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota [huesm003@umn.edu]
Daniel Jones-White, Analyst, Office of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota [djwhite@umn.edu]
Krista Soria, Analyst, Office of Institutional Research, University of Minnesota [botx0006@umn.edu]


Keywords: Academic gains, social gains, student interconnectedness, community-building, college students
Track: Theoretical or conceptual frameworks to advance research
Format: Research paper
Date & time: Thursday 2:00-3:10Location: Salon 8
Summary:Given the growing popularity of community engaged experiences on college campuses, it is important to understand how these experiences interact with other academic and social engagement opportunities to promote achievement gains among college students. In this research paper we utilize data from a multi-institutional study of student engagement to estimate potential direct and indirect effects of community engagement on students’ academic and social gains. A latent variable structural equation model of student achievement was developed to explore the potential relationship between participation in community-based learning activities (e.g. service learning course, community based research, et cetera) and students’ perceptions of academic and cultural development.
Specifically, our empirical investigation addresses two important questions: 1) Does participation in community based learning opportunities contribute, either directly or indirectly, to improved academic and social skills development for students? 2) Does participation in community-based learning opportunities produce differential outcomes for different subgroups of students?
This study utilizes data from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey, a multi-institutional survey that assesses students’ perceptions of campus climate, satisfaction, time use, and levels of academic engagement, community engagement, global knowledge and skills and student life/development. Utilizing data from approximately 18,000 students from 12 different AAU public research universities, the preliminary findings of our research demonstrate that participation in community based learning activities contribute to both the integration and skill development of college students.
The implications of these findings support public and community service efforts across college campuses and indicate the ways in which community service benefits the community-building capacity within colleges. As a means of connecting students to stakeholders outside of the higher education organization, in addition to supporting their interconnectedness within the organization, community service carries an indirect--but important--role in fostering students’ academic and social gains.
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Furco, A. (2010). The community as a resource for learning: An analysis of academic service-learning in primary and secondary education. In Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides (Eds.), The nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice (pp. 227-249). Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
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