Scaling Up Community Service Learning Projects

Lay Summary 

This public engagement project built upon Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) students' earlier participation in an innovative model of Community Service Learning (CSL), an educational approach that integrates service in the community with intentional learning activities. In this model, members of educational institutions and community organizations worked together toward mutually beneficial outcomes. As part of the main assignment for the School of Social Work's Community Development course, BSW students partnered with a community organization of their choosing. The community partners then assigned student groups a research topic of which the partners have an organizational need (e.g., The Blue Door program asked students to review research relevant to understanding trauma and attachment in sexually exploited youth). The student groups then engaged in research to address the assigned topic, reflected upon the implications of this research, wrote research reports, and presented their findings to the partnering organization. Activities were shaped to encourage critical thinking and intentional facilitated reflection with the intention of helping BSW students develop as individuals in relation to their values, sense of social responsibility, and leadership capacities.

"Scaling Up Community Service Learning Projects" was made possible thanks to funding from the Accelerator Grant program of the Office of Public Engagement, Memorial University. This follow-up to the CSL activity involved BSW student teams scaling up their assignments in collaboration with graduate student mentors and community partners. Student teams engaged in multiple editing iterations of their research review papers in an effort to (a) improve quality, rigour, and scope and (b) further reflect upon the relevance of research findings to social policy and practice. In addition to five community partnerships, eight papers from the BSW Research course were also scaled up, for a total of 13 research summaries. The papers were then shared with the community during a conference held at Memorial University, entitled "Exchange 2018: Bachelor of social work students and community partners present papers on current ideas/issues". To enhance dissemination, presentations were broadcast live via the internet so non-local audiences can attend the conference via a visual and audio link. Also, papers were made available online after the conference.

The Scaling Up project had five major beneficial outcomes. The first was that students, mentors and involved faculty members were able to add to their knowledge of current community issues. Secondly, BSW students gained practical experience in scholarly writing, knowledge mobilization, and public engagement. Thirdly, graduate student mentors were given a chance to develop leadership skills and engage in student supervision activities in preparation for future roles as faculty members. Fourthly, community partners gained information to improve services, gain awareness of social causes and refine organizational goals. Finally, BSW students gained a first experience as conference presenters. For further description of the project and access to the conference papers, visit:

School of Social Work
Accelerator Fund for Public Engagement
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Community Services
Lifelong Learning
Public engagement
Adult Education
Politics, civic issues, social movement
Social Issues
Social policy
Knowledge Mobilization
Industry Sectors 
Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services
Individual and Family Services
Start date 
1 Nov 2017
End date 
1 Feb 2019
Lead Organization 
Stella's Circle
Partner Organization 
Waypoints Inc.