Service Learning as part of a school placement within teacher education | Educational Research and Schooling

Service Learning Service Learning as part of a school placement in teacher training

Students and trainee teachers have long valued the effects of school placements during their studies. However empirical evidence for these effects has been missing. More currently studies have shown that the effects on and perceptions of students differ before, during and after their practical training (e.g. Hascher 2006). With regard to the teacher students’ school placement these effects need to be compared and analysed, especially concerning students’ professional and general competence development, as well as their perceptions and attitudes.

As a civic education approach to teaching and learning, service learning combines the develop-ment of competences and growth in social commitment in a very specific way (Backhaus-Maul/Roth 2013), thereby achieving effects with regard to the following three main fields (Billig 2000, Seifert 2011):

  1. Academic learning: Students who participated in service learning projects showed a considerably better performance than did students who did not (Davila/Mora 2007; Furco 2007; Furco 2002; Klute 2002; Klute/Billig 2002; Melchior/Bailis 2001; Bil-lig/Meyer 2002; Billig 2000; Eyler/Giles 1999; Melchior 1999).
  2. Social and personal competences: The participation in service learning projects en-hances social competences and improves self-confidence (Billig 2000; Martin et al. 2006; Meyer/Billig 2003; Morgan/Streb 2001; Scales et al. 2000; Yates/Youniss 1996).
  3. Civil attitudes and active citizenship: Service Learning enhances the awareness of prob-lems within the community and increases identification with one’s community and the democratic values this community is based upon. Further it strengthens the interest in political participation (Billig 2002; Meyer 2006; Meyer 2003; Yamauchi et al. 2006).

These results are based on the competence development of students who engage in service learning themselves, thus the service providers. The effects on those initiating service learning projects, the service initiators, are rarely studied. Moreover the mentioned effects are mainly based on school-based service learning projects and can thus be ascribed only to pupils. This research project therefore lays a special emphasis on the competence development of student teacher trainees.

Scientific research question

The project’s main research question is in how far teacher students’ professional and general competences as well as their career motives differ during the school placement under varying conditions of preparation and implementation of service learning projects. Two groups of stu-dents will implement service learning in two pedagogical roles, on the one hand as (1) service providers and on the other hand as (2) service initiators. These will be contrasted with (3) teacher students who will not be engaging in service learning projects at all. 


The research is based in the realm of the newly designed school placement programme, which is a core element within the Master studies for teacher education in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). At the University of Duisburg-Essen the school placements are prepared through a pre-liminary seminar, called “Research Workshop Educational Studies”. The research project fo-cusses on students form the winter term 2014/2015 and from the summer term 2015.

The study implements a quasi-experimental design. Three online questionnaires (pretest, post-test and follow-up), in approximately six month intervals, are planned. The student teacher trainees from the experimental group (intended N=120) will be first generally and later, in sep-arate research workshops, specifically prepared for their tasks as either service providers or service initiators during their practical semester. The groups will be randomized by drawing lots.

A qualitative study follows up the perspectives of the four central stakeholders (students, guid-ing teachers, pupils and school administration) in order to increase the knowledge on condi-tions for implementation. In order to achieve this more and less successful service learning projects (with regard to competence development) will be compared in contrasting case studies.

Project team

Prof. Dr. Marten Clausen
Prof. Dr. Hermann Josef Abs
Christina Funke
Daniela Langolf

Cooperation Partner

Karsten Altenschmidt of UNIAKTIV, coordination and development of service learning semi-nars at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE)


Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research North Rhine-Westphalia) (2014 to 2017)

Publications and Presentations

  • Funke, C./ Langolf, D./ Clausen, M./ Abs, H.J. (angenommen):  Lernen durch Engagement im Praxissemester – Eine quasiexperimentelle Wirksamkeitsstudie.  Posterbeitrag zur 3. Ta-gung der Gesellschaft für Empirische Bildungsforschung in Bochum.
  • Langolf, D./ Funke, C./ Clausen, M./ Abs, H.J. (2014): Lernen durch Engagement im Praxis-semester. Vortrag auf der Tagung Engagement in der Lehre anlässlich der Auszeichnung von UNIAKTIV als „Ort des Fortschritts“ durch NRW ‐ Wissenschaftsministerin Svenja Schulze in Essen.