finding purpose through service-learning

finding purpose through service-learning

Students engaged in service-learning are more likely to develop a purpose due to their increased self-efficacy from their service-learning experiences. Self-efficacy is a belief in one’s abilities or capability to complete a task (Kosine, Steger, & Duncan, 2008).

Service-learning increases students’ sense of self-efficacy (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, & Yee, 2000). Service-learning students have higher self-efficacy before starting service-learning and are more prepared for the challenges they may experience (Reeb, Folger, Langsner, Ryan, & Crouse, 2010). Students experience increased self-efficacy after having an experience, such as service-learning, in which they are successful (Reeb et al., 2010).

Increased self-efficacy from service-learning experiences, in turn, can lead to purpose development (DeWitz, Woolsey, & Walsh, 2009).  Self-efficacy impacts career choice, which is an expression of purpose. Service-learning inspires this career-oriented aspect of purpose by showing the importance of helping and giving back to the community (Kosine et al., 2008). Adolescents and emerging adults need only to feel that they have the will to accomplish their goals to help achieve their goals (Bronk, Hill, Lapsley, Talib, & Finch, 2009).


By Andrea Levesque, Clark University, USA



Astin, A. W., Vogelgesang, L. J., Ikeda, E. K., & Yee, J. A. (2000). How service learning affects students. Higher Education. Paper 144. Retrieved from:

Bronk, K. C., Hill, P. L., Lapsley, D. K., Talib, T. L., & Finch, F. D. (2009). Purpose, hope and life satisfaction in three age groups. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 500-510.

DeWitz, S. J., Woolsey, M. L., & Walsh, W. B. (2009). College student retention: An exploration of the relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and purpose in life among college students. Journal of College Student Development, 50(1), 19-34.

Kosine, N. R., Steger, M. F., & Duncan, S. (2008). Purpose-centered career development: A strengths-based approach to finding meaning and purpose in careers. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 133-136.

Reeb, R. N., Folger, S. F., Langsner, S., Ryan, C., & Crouse, J. (2010). Self-efficacy in service-learning community action research: Theory, research, and practice. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46(3/4), 459-471.