Research Initiative: Student Perceptions of Service-Learning and Social Entrepreneurship

Within Duke Service-Learning, we research students’ experiences in and perceptions of service-learning courses. We have focused on the key question of how to best support service-learning (SL) students as they take ownership and authorship of forming coherent, integrated educational pathways. Our focus at present is studying how students perceive social entrepreneurship (SE) and service-learning and how this might impact their ideas of civic engagement, social justice, and their relationship to the community. We are interested in the differences between service-learning and social entrepreneurship for three reasons. First, civic scholars are drawing distinctions between the two approaches; second, we see these distinctions as drivers of student behavior; and third, we think a discussion about the implications of the differences in methodologies is important to the creation of best practices.

Is there a shift in language, values, and motivations associated with each framework? With the goal to gain insight into how students’ perceptions of SL and SE differ, we designed a survey. The survey consisted of one open-ended definition creation for both SL and SE, a series of Likert-type response items that asked to what extent respondents associated a series of terms and statements with SL and SE, and a semantic differential task in which students responded whether they associated a specific word or idea more with SL, SE, or neither.