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Research Articles

Vol. 18 No. 2

Student Growth from Service-Learning: A Comparison of First-Generation and Non-First-Generation College Students

  • Lynn E. Pelco
  • Christopher T. Ball
  • Kelly Lockeman
June 16, 2014


The effect of service-learning courses on student growth was compared for 321 first-generation and 782 non-first-generation undergraduate students at a large urban university. Student growth encompassed both academic and professional skill development. The majority of students reported significant academic and professional development after participating in a service-learning course, and female students reported similarly high levels of growth regardless of their generational, racial, or financial status. However, for male students, the amount of growth differed significantly as a function of generational, racial, and financial status. Non-first-generation male students from minority and low-income backgrounds reported the least growth, whereas first-generation male students from minority and low-income backgrounds reported the most growth. These findings reveal that first-generation and non-first-generation male students may differ in their responses to service-learning and highlight the importance of utilizing large, diverse samples when conducting quantitative studies to investigate the impact of service-learning on student development.