Service Learning and Empathy

Many studies show how service-learning practices improve empathy on students:

  • Students who engaged in service-learning showed greater empathy and cognitive complexity than comparison groups (Courneya, 1994). 
  •  Students who engaged in quality service-learning programs reported greater acceptance of cultural diversity (Melchior, 1999; Berkas, 1997
  • Middle and elementary school students who participated in servicelearning were better able to trust and be trusted by others, be reliable and accept responsibility (Stephens, 1995).
  • College Students involved in the service-learning assignment were significantly more likely to express empathy in their reflective writing than the students who did not participate in service-learning. (Wilson 2011).
  • Various characteristics of community service-learning are significantly related to empathy levels in elementary school children. (Emerson, 2008)
  •  A study examined if a service learning method was accomplishing its potential in six categories of service-learning objectives: intellectual, skills, affective development, moral and spiritual growth, community outcomes, and college or university outcomes. Results of an initial reading of the narrative evaluations yielded five themes: connecting with learning; student personal issues; empathy and relating to others; changes in outlook; and program feedback. (Soukup, 1999

Other voices from the economic sector, as Jeremy Rifkin, explain how powerful is service-learning in improving empathy: