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Benefits of Experiential Education

Benefits for Students 

The literature points to a number of positive academically oriented benefits for Academic Community Service Learning such as:

1)       Increased interest and strengthened focus on the students’ major[i]

2)       Improved academic performance[ii]

3)       Improved oral and written expression [iii]

In addition, Academic Community Service Learning promotes broader social benefits such as:

1)       Beneficial for developing citizenship, fostering civic responsibility and the importance of contributing to the broader public good[iv]

2)       Improved attitudes toward social responsibility,[v]

3)       Respect and tolerance for diversity and connection to others,[vi]

4)       Increased likelihood to continue working with the community. [vii]

Finally, Lowenthal & Sosland, (2007) point out practical benefits in terms of student development:

1)       More defined career plans,

2)       Improved likelihood of attending graduate school, and

3)       Professional networking opportunities

Benefits for Course Directors

EE offers a number of benefits for course directors that can potentially enhance teaching/learning, research and service:

1)       EE ensures that students have a deeper understanding of key pedagogical concepts

2)       EE can be a means for integrating current issues in the course thereby creating more interest on the part of the student

3)       Certain forms of EE foster the establishment of community contacts that may be useful for future teaching and research collaborations[viii]

4)       EE allows for the opportunity to achieve teaching, service and research opportunities through the teaching role. [ix]

Benefits for Community Partners

Ideally, the nature of community engagement suggests that community partners relate to members of the university institution so that there is a mutual beneficial exchange for both parties. Such an arrangement is necessary for the long-term sustainability of the partnership.[x] Such partnerships should be of equal value and are mutually reinforcing; they can enrich scholarship and community development as well as the student experience. From the perspective of the community partner the following benefits can result from the partnership:

1)       Community partners may inform curriculum (from the perspective of “what is happening on the ground”),

2)       Knowledge mobilization/exchange/transfer:  (i.e., students can be seen as a source of current knowledge, students can inform community partners, and potentially challenge those in the field),

3)       Student contact helps the community partner to shape the future of the community partners’ sector,

4)       Strengthening of relationships with university affiliation;

5)       Ability to complete projects they might not otherwise due to lack of own resources,

6)       Source of potential hires, board members, and volunteers (i.e., students who have worked with a partner may become future employees). 

7)       Staff /community partners develop as mentors to students,

8)       Source of support for under-serviced and under-funded agencies

9)       Students bring from their own communities, an authentic voice of issues from community to the classroom

10)   Agencies are receptive to student curiosity, energy, initiative and motivation which can positively impact the organization.

Benefits for York University

1)       Enhances student experience and engagement with course work and possibly  improves student retention

2)       Enhances the reputation of the University, as a result of community engagement (be it from teaching or research collaborations),

3)       Consolidates the civic role and responsibility of the institution

4)       Enhances the opportunities to reconnect and maintain relationships with alumni

5)       Potentially garners increased funding/support from government, and donors.  In the case of the latter, donors can be seen as benefiting not only  the University, but also the community.[xi]

[i] Lowenthal, D. J., & Sosland, J. K. (2007). Making the grade: How a semester in Washington may influence future academic performance. Journal of Political Science Education, 3(2), 143-160.

[ii] Strage, A. A. (2000). Service-learning: Enhancing student learning outcomes in a college-level lecture course. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 7, 5-13.;
Mpofu, E. (2007). Service-learning effects on the academic learning of rehabilitation services students. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(1), 46-52.

[iii] Feldman, A. M., Moss, T., Chin, D., Marie, M., Rai, C., & Graham, R. (2006). The impact of partnership-centered, community-based learning on first-year students' academic research papers. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 13(1), 16-29.Sawyer, P. (2009). The writing program and the call to service: A progress report from a land grant university. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 15(2), 68-76.

[iv] Ngai, S. S. (2006). Service-learning, personal development, and social commitment: A case study of university students in Hong Kong. Adolescence (San Diego): An International Quarterly Devoted to the Physiological, Psychological, Psychiatric, Sociological, and Educational Aspects of the Second Decade of Human Life, 41(161), 165.


[v] Perry, J.L., M.C. Katula. 2001. “Does Service Affect Citizenship?” Administration & Society, 33 (3), 330-365.

[vi] Knapp, J.L. & Stubblefield, P. (2000) Changing students' perceptions  of aging: the impact of an intergenerational service learning course. Educational Gerontology, 26 (7): 611-621.

[vii] Ngai, S. S. (2006). Service-learning, personal development, and social commitment: A case study of university students in Hong Kong. Adolescence (San Diego): An International Quarterly Devoted to the Physiological, Psychological, Psychiatric, Sociological, and Educational Aspects of the Second Decade of Human Life, 41(161), 165.

[viii] Buys, N. and Bursnall, S. (2007). Establishing university-community partnerships: processes and benefits. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29 (1), 73 – 86.

[ix] Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (2009). Innovative practices in service-learning and curricular engagement. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 37-46.
Saltmarsh, J., Giles, D. E., Jr., Ward, E., & Buglione, S. M. (2009). Rewarding community-engaged scholarship. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 25-35.


[x] Beere, C. (2009). Understanding and enhancing the opportunities of community-campus partnerships. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 55-63.
Driscoll, A. (2009). Carnegie's new community engagement classification: Affirming higher education's role in community. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 5-12.
Holland, B. A. (2009). Will it last? evidence of institutionalization at carnegie classified community engagement institutions. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 85-98.

[xi] Weerts, D., & Hudson, E. (2009). Engagement and institutional advancement. New Directions for Higher Education, (147), 65-74.

Updated on September 11th, 2013.