Date of Award
Master of Education
School of Education
Dr Bill Allen
Immersive service-learning (ISL) tours provide opportunities for students to deepen their academic and social learning as they provide services to others in an environment different to their home. Research on the effects of ISL tours has been conducted with secondary, tertiary, and graduate school level students, but little research exists on the effects for primary school-age students. This may be in part because of the scarcity of ISL programs available for primary school-age students.
This case study research explores the impacts of an ISL service-learning experience on its primary school-age participants. The community of the metropolitan suburban school at the centre of the study had long-held beliefs in the value of such experiences for their students, but no empirical evidence existed to validate these claims. The research aimed to explore the impacts on the students from two perspectives: (i) the students themselves; and (ii) the parents of the students. These two groups formed the participant groups for the study.
Mixed methods were selected for the case study; quantitative data were collected first using a custom-designed questionnaire, on two occasions: one before, and one after the ISL experience. These explored the impacts in terms of five pre-determined themes: social-emotional development; intellectual learning; empathic understandings; the nature of service; and understanding Australian culture. Results from the survey data were then used to formulate semi-structured interview questions asked for focus groups with both groups, on only one occasion, after the tour was completed.
Through this methodology, a deeper understanding of the impacts has been realised, and especially through the voices of the participants. In total, nine key impacts were found: social-emotional, intellectual, and empathic development; a change in perspectives on service and Australian culture; interpersonal and personal skill development, and finally understandings of remote living, and Aboriginal culture. The case study has fulfilled the aims of justifying service learning as appropriate pedagogy for the primary-school level in finding that many benefits for these students resulted from the immersive service-learning experience.
The evidence from the findings of this study has important implications, justifying the benefits service-learning experiences for primary-school teachers to deliver to, and with, their students; they can be confident that they will be making a difference in the hearts and minds of possible leaders of tomorrow.
Luinstra, K. (2020). Receiving by giving: The impacts of immersive service-learning for primary school-age students. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2319