Service-Learning: Boldly Going Where EAL Students Have Not Gone Before

Heather Wisla, Wendy Krauza, Jim Hu


Service-learning is an experiential pedagogy which integrates curriculum and volunteer service through ongoing reflection. Research suggests that service-learning offers notable benefits for post-secondary English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) students. However, most of the researchers have studied EAL students within the United States; far fewer have examined EAL students in the Canadian context. This paper reports on a study of the impact of service-learning on EAL students at a Canadian university in British Columbia. A first-year service-learning elective has been offered at the university since Fall 2009. This course is taught by faculty from the ESL Department who have a Master’s degree or equivalent in a related field. This study investigated the impact of the elective on EAL students’ English proficiency. Data were collected from students through surveys, interviews, and journals. Additionally, the grade point averages (GPA’s) of EAL students in first-year university English composition were examined, comparing those EAL students who took the service-learning elective (Group A) with those who did not (Group B). Grade analysis showed whereas Group B had a GPA of 2.15 on a 4.33 scale for first-year English composition, the subset of Group A who took first-year English composition in the semester immediately following service-learning achieved a GPA of 2.55. The results supported service-learning as an effective pedagogy for EAL students.


Service-learning, experiential learning, English as an additional language

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Copyright (c) 2017 Heather Ellen Wisla, Wendy Krauza, Jim Hu

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