Valuing student and community voices in the university: Action Research as a Framework for Community Service-learning


  • Erin O'Connor
  • Judith Smith
  • Phil Crane
  • Dean Brough
  • Natasha Shaw
  • Jill Franz
  • Ingrid Larkin


Service-learning, participatory action research, tertiary education, community services


The Community Service-learning Lab (the Lab) was initiated as a university-wide service-learning experience at an Australian university. The Lab engages students, academics, and key community organisations in interdisciplinary action research projects to support student learning and to explore complex and ongoing problems nominated by the community partners. The current study uses feedback from the first offering of the Lab and focuses on exploring student experiences of the service learning project using an action research framework. Student reflections on this experience have revealed some positive outcomes of the Lab such as an appreciation for positive and strengths-based change. These outcomes are corroborated by collected reflections from community partners and academics. The students also identified challenges balancing the requirements for assessment and their goals to serve the community partner’s needs. This feedback has provided vital information for the academic team, highlighting the difficulties in balancing the agenda of the academic framework and the desire to give students authentic experiences.