Understanding Student Complaints in the Service Learning Pedagogy

Document Type


Publication Date



This study draws upon student evaluations across 3 years of service learning (SL) courses at a large, urban, faith-based university identifying issues of greatest concern to students. Analysis of qualitative responses revealed perspectives on the limits, pitfalls, and barriers to successful SL student work in the community replicated over the 3 year timeframe. Over 2,200 written responses were coded and tested for reliability for each of 3 years. The top three comments SL students were most likely to express included: (1) concern about their placement in the community, for example, that sites were not prepared or that further goal-setting, communication and training by the university was necessary; (2) that the university's choice of sites may have been ill considered; and, (3) that there were problems with time and scheduling. Ongoing assessment of students' perspectives on their placement experience identifies practices that can enhance their learning and contributions toward building stronger communities.