How does service-learning transform students?
Numerous studies have shown the positive effects --academic, interpersonal, personal and professional --of academic service-learning (Kiely, 2004).
In their book, Where's the learning in service-learning? (1999), J.S. Eyler and D.E. Giles, Jr. argue that service-learning supports education that "raises fundamental questions and empowers students to do something about them" (p.133). Academic service-learning, they argue, is "not about accumulating more knowledge, but about seeing the world in a profoundly different way, one that calls for personal commitment and action" (p.129).
One study by W.A. Kellogg (1999) examined moral, intellectual and political dimensions of the transformational impact of service-learning by analyzing data collected through papers, surveys, and student journals. Kellogg describes the students' moral perspective transformation as "an enhanced sense of empathy and caring about urban neighborhoods...in which students would identify themselves and residents of these neighborhoods as members of the same community" (p. 64). The study also found a longer-term moral transformation in some students who continued to work in the service community after the semester ended.
For more information on research in this area, I suggest starting with this website:
Learn and Service America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (http://www.servicelearning.org/) has a library of resources on academic research studies of service-learning.
Eyler, J.S. & Giles, Jr. D.E. (1999) Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation In International Service-Learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp. 5-20.
Kellogg, W.A. (1999) Toward more transformative service-learning: Experiences from an urban environmental problem-solving class. Michigan Journal of Service Learning, Fall, pp. 63-73.