Part of the thrill of facilitating The Service Learning Project (SLP) is seeing the incredibly positive impact on youth of all ages, and there are consistent trends: Students are excited to participate in, but even more so to lead, the process. They are passionate about working together to help solve a social problem of their choice. And they are energized by the opportunity to share their proposals for change with adults in their schools and communities.

Why are children and teens so highly motivated by service learning or action civics? Research conducted by Paul Pintrich, University of Michigan professor of education and psychology, points to five essential elements of student motivation, all of which are fundamental to service learning, civics education and the SLP model.

  • Self-Efficacy According to the theory of self-efficacy, if students expect to do well, they will try harder, engage more deeply and show more persistence.
  • Self-Determination and Personal Control Not surprisingly, research also shows that students who believe they have more personal control of their own learning are more likely to engage.
  • Personal and Situational Interest Tapping into personal interest is, of course, an excellent way to motivate students, which is one of the reasons our model requires that students choose the social issue to be tackled.
  • Value Calculations Students want their work to be important and not busy work. With each activity, we make sure students understand why we’re doing it and how it will help advance their project.
  • Goal Orientation Students pursue many different goals in the classroom, both individual and social. Individual performance goals that are achieved through action civics include opportunities to demonstrate ability, receive recognition and compare individual progress with that of their peers.

Read the full article about service learning by Liz Pitofsky at Getting Smart.