Student knowledge construction in service-learning: The role of varied experiences

  • Yulan Li
  • Meilin YaoEmail author
  • Fangfang Guo
  • Xiuping Yao
  • Wenfan Yan
Original Research


Previous studies have examined the effects of service-learning on student outcomes, but the dynamics and the mechanism of student development have received little attention. The present study aims to investigate how students construct their understanding of course content through service-learning, as well as the role of varied experiences. Eighty-four students were randomly assigned to two different conditions: the low-varied experiences condition (n = 36), in which students served the same child with autism throughout the programme, and the highly-varied experiences condition (n = 48), in which students served two children with autism successively. A total of 483 reflective journals written by students in a 6-week timeframe were analysed. The results indicated that students gained benefits from service-learning in terms of knowledge construction, and the overall change in students’ knowledge construction fluctuated throughout the service-learning process. In addition, students in the highly-varied experiences condition also demonstrated some differences in knowledge construction changes, indicating that varied service experiences might interfere with students’ knowledge construction at the turning point of task changing. The implications for service-learning and instruction are also discussed.


Knowledge construction Service-learning Varied experiences College students 



This research was supported by the MOE Project of Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Universities (Grant No. 15JJD190002), and Foundation for Young Scholars from the National Office for Education Sciences Planning (No. EMA170440).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Education ScienceNanning Normal UniversityNanningChina
  3. 3.Institute of Developmental Psychology, Faculty of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Beijing Information Science and Technology UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Leadership in Education, College of Education and Human DevelopmentUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA

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