Sustaining Service-Learning: Best Practices at Six Exemplar U.S. Community Colleges




Ludwick, Ann Martha

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This qualitative study identified key factors associated with exemplar service-learning programs at six community colleges across the United States. The purpose of this case study was to determine why these programs have sustained over time and to better understand how administrators and faculty meet shifting demands for service-learning. The research design was primarily qualitative and used surveys, interviews, and document analysis. Participants included program coordinators, faculty, and presidents at the six selected colleges. Semi-structured interviews provided multiple viewpoints of the current state of service-learning at the institutions. An analysis of these interviews relied on the participants' own experiences and explanations as to why service-learning has survived for more than a decade at their colleges. Findings revealed that robust programs started with a strong foundation, made positive connections across the college and throughout the community, had organizational structures aligned with service, used service-learning to emphasize student learning, and recognized the practical application of this method for career and work purposes. Barriers affecting programs within the college and community partners revolved around communication, procedural, and organizational issues. The six colleges have demonstrated that long-term service-learning offers practical, real-world learning opportunities for students, the college, and the community.



Service-learning, Program survival, Community college, Best practices, Institutionalized, Sustainability