Service learning (SL) is a relatively common pedagogical method in the US, where it has been widely adopted in schools, colleges, and universities. The method requires students to take part in the activities of organizations that serve community needs. While the literature argues that SL activities could generate beneficial effects for students' cognitive abilities, self-esteem and motivation, satisfaction with schools, attitudes towards institutions, and civic engagement, empirical evaluation of these effects is scarce and frequently far from rigorous. This paper investigates the effects of being engaged in “SL-like” activities on the school performance of 9th and 10th grade students at high risk of school failure and drop-out in Italy. We contribute to the empirical literature on SL in three ways. First, we run the first pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) to simultaneously evaluate the effect of a SL program on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, with the latter measured through questionnaires and incentivized tasks. Second, this is the first attempt to evaluate the impact of SL as a remedial intervention on the specific target of low-achieving students at risk of dropping out from school. Finally, this is the first attempt to rigorously investigate SL activities in Italy, and one of the first in Europe, as most RCTs involving SL have focused on the US. Our experimental results show that—consistently with the literature developed in the US—participation in “SL-like” activities leads to a general improvement in non-cognitive skills of students at risk of dropping out. On the other hand, contrary to what the literature argues, the intervention does not improve cognitive skills, since participation in the program even increases the risk of school failure. These results suggest designing and implementing SL interventions in schools with great care to avoid unintended negative consequences.

Argentin, G., Barbetta, G., Maggioni, M. A., Rossignoli, D., Stella, L., Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students, <<Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students>>, 2022; (23): 1-81 [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/211346]

Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students

Barbetta, Gianpaolo
;
Maggioni, Mario Agostino;Rossignoli, Domenico;
2022

Abstract

Service learning (SL) is a relatively common pedagogical method in the US, where it has been widely adopted in schools, colleges, and universities. The method requires students to take part in the activities of organizations that serve community needs. While the literature argues that SL activities could generate beneficial effects for students' cognitive abilities, self-esteem and motivation, satisfaction with schools, attitudes towards institutions, and civic engagement, empirical evaluation of these effects is scarce and frequently far from rigorous. This paper investigates the effects of being engaged in “SL-like” activities on the school performance of 9th and 10th grade students at high risk of school failure and drop-out in Italy. We contribute to the empirical literature on SL in three ways. First, we run the first pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) to simultaneously evaluate the effect of a SL program on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, with the latter measured through questionnaires and incentivized tasks. Second, this is the first attempt to evaluate the impact of SL as a remedial intervention on the specific target of low-achieving students at risk of dropping out from school. Finally, this is the first attempt to rigorously investigate SL activities in Italy, and one of the first in Europe, as most RCTs involving SL have focused on the US. Our experimental results show that—consistently with the literature developed in the US—participation in “SL-like” activities leads to a general improvement in non-cognitive skills of students at risk of dropping out. On the other hand, contrary to what the literature argues, the intervention does not improve cognitive skills, since participation in the program even increases the risk of school failure. These results suggest designing and implementing SL interventions in schools with great care to avoid unintended negative consequences.
Inglese
Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students
978-88-343-5209-0
Vita e Pensiero, Milano
Argentin, G., Barbetta, G., Maggioni, M. A., Rossignoli, D., Stella, L., Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students, <<Service learning, well-being and school performance : causal evidence from Italian High school students>>, 2022; (23): 1-81 [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/211346]
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