Asee peer logo

Service Learning In Engineering Science Courses: Does It Work?

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

New Learning Paradigms I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1055.1 - 14.1055.24



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


John Duffy University of Massachusetts, Lowell

visit author page

Professor, Mechanical Engineering

visit author page


Carol Barry University Massachusetts Lowell

visit author page

Professor, Plastics Engineering

visit author page


Linda Barrington University of Massachusetts, Lowell

visit author page

Service-Learning Coordinator, College of Engineering

visit author page


Manuel Heredia University of Massachusetts, Lowell

visit author page

Doctoral Research Assistant, Renewable Energy Engineering

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Service-Learning in Engineering Science Courses: Does It Work? Keywords: service-learning, faculty development, citizen engineer


In the fall of 2004 a college with five undergraduate academic programs decided to integrate service-learning (S-L) projects into required engineering courses throughout the curriculum so that students would be exposed to S-L in at least one course in each of eight semesters. The ultimate goal is to graduate better engineers and better citizens. Four of the degree programs have achieved on average one course each semester, with an actual coverage of 103 out of 128 semester courses, or 80% coverage over the four years. Of the 32 required courses in the academic year that had an average of 753 students each semester doing S-L projects related to the subject matter of the course, 19 of the courses (60%) were considered engineering science, that is, not explicitly design or first-year introduction courses. Eighteen different professors taught these engineering science courses with S-L projects, accounting for from 5 to 20% of the grades of the students. In addition, there were nine other elective courses with an additional 40 students on average per semester doing S-L projects. The goal has essentially been reached in four of the five engineering programs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with more than fifty courses having S-L components. Over two-thirds of the students and faculty members expressed agreement with the basic idea of SLICE, with about 15% opposed. Some forty-three tenure-track faculty members (including 30% untenured) have integrated S-L into at least one required engineering course, averaging four S-L courses each. . Finally, more than two-thirds of the students reported that S-L helped keep them in engineering, and female students reported being significantly more responsive to the S-L projects. This program represents perhaps the largest experiment with S-L in mainstream engineering courses in terms of courses, students, and faculty. This approach is based on a number of hypotheses, which are posited and “tested” with quantitative and qualitative data. Most of the hypotheses are confirmed with data collected to date from this program and literature results.

1. Service Learning

Although there are many definitions of service-learning (1), we define service-learning as a hands-on learning approach in which students achieve academic objectives in a credit-bearing course by meeting real community needs. The approach of S-L, with its roots in experiential learning, is consistent with the theories and empirical research of a number of leading educators and developmental psychologists, as documented by (1). The approach is also consistent with the recent change in paradigm in education from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning (2). In engineering, the goals is to have students become better professionals and better citizens while the community also benefits. Service-learning (S-L) has been shown to be effective in a large number of cognitive and affective measures, including critical thinking and tolerance for diversity, and leads to better knowledge of course subject matter, cooperative learning, and recruitment of under-represented groups in engineering; it also leads to better retention of students, and citizenship (3), as well as helping meet the well-known ABET criteria (a)-(k) (4). Astin et al. (5) found with longitudinal data of 22,000 students that S-L had significant positive effects on 11 outcome measures: academic performance (GPA, writing skills, critical thinking

Duffy, J., & Barry, C., & Barrington, L., & Heredia, M. (2009, June), Service Learning In Engineering Science Courses: Does It Work? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5720

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015