Service Learning

Service Learning

For relational interventions, service-learning content may not be as beneficial as other content that targets externalizing behavior.

Is your program faced with tight resources and the need to prioritize which services you offer? It may be useful to weigh the costs and benefits of offering content that had smaller effects on externalizing behavior.

For interventions in the relational family, those that included service-learning content tended to have smaller effects on externalizing behaviors than programs without this content. Service-learning is a type of experiential learning that provides youth with opportunities to apply their academic knowledge and skills to address community needs. While you might use service-learning in your program for a number of reasons – e.g., to improve school attendance and grades, develop self-efficacy, or increase sense of connection to the community – if your primary goal is to reduce externalizing behavior problems, service-learning may not be required to achieve positive impacts on that outcome.

If you are already using or contemplating using service-learning, consider the following:

  • What are the reasons for using service learning, and what is its role in driving the priority outcomes for your program?
    • Is it expected to improve academic outcomes? Enhance youth development and personal growth? Reduce externalizing behaviors? If your reasons for using service-learning include reducing externalizing behavior, and this is a priority outcome, consider de-emphasizing it relative to other content, or replacing it with content that evidence shows is more beneficial in supporting positive behavioral outcomes, such as interpersonal skill-building.
  • Do you have evaluation results that point to whether service learning is associated with your intended outcomes? Consider keeping the service- learning component if it is a crucial part of your program and you have evidence that it is contributing to improving outcomes that are important to you and/or your community partners, like school engagement and academic success.
  • If you serve a variety of youth with a range of risk factors, think about shifting the service-learning component to serve those with fewer risk factors or with risk factors other than behavior problems.