The Results are in: Service-Learning Office Announces 2018-19 SLIM Report
The SLIM evaluations help service-learning staff understand the service students participate in, measure the unique learning benefits of service-learning and improve the service-learning program at VCU.
By Patricia Cason
The Service-Learning Office has announced the 2018-19 Service-Learning Impact Measure (SLIM) Report. Visit Service-Learning’s Impact Data page to read the complete 2018-2019 SLIM report.
Each semester, the Service-Learning Office invites every student enrolled in a service-learning class to participate in the SLIM evaluation. The SLIM evaluations help service-learning staff understand the service students participate in, measure the unique learning benefits of service-learning and improve the service-learning program at VCU. During the 2018-19 academic year, 868 students completed the SLIM evaluation.
Key findings include that 86 percent of students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the service-learning course they took enabled them to apply personal skills and knowledge to new situations. Additionally, 82 percent of students described their service-learning class as beneficial for connecting learning to societal problems and issues. Eighty-one percent of SLIM respondents agreed or strongly agreed that service-learning enabled them to understand how people in their desired profession think or behave, and 82 percent felt service-learning helped them understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
When Astha Banjara, a psychology major on the pre-med track, enrolled in a service-learning class, she didn’t realize how much she’d learn from mentoring at Carver Elementary. Although the activities Banjara did with her mentee were often as simple as reading a book together, she learned she could make changes in the community while doing something she loved.
“The main thing I learned is that small changes can have a big impact as a whole,” Banjara said. “With the volunteering that I have done, I have learned a lot about myself in the sense of respecting others who are different from me, as well as creating better communication skills and most importantly, critical thinking and problem-solving. Taking a service-learning class was very beneficial because you not only get to learn more about Richmond as an incoming freshman, but you get to have a chance to get out in the community and learn things hands-on.”
Assistant professor Joseph Cates, Banjara’s service-learning professor, sees service-learning as a meaningful way to tackle societal issues.
“In order to garner real world experience associated with developing these critical, transferable skills, we must tackle the actual challenges of the day,” Cates said.
Undergraduates aren’t the only ones who benefit from service-learning courses. Megan Ford, who graduated in May 2019 with a master’s degree in public administration, developed valuable professional skills in her service-learning capstone course.
Ford’s team partnered with Henrico County Public Relations and Media Services (PRMS) to research and analyze promising social media practices being used by other local Virginia governments. Ford said she learned more during the project than she would have in a traditional academic setting.
“The last few months of that program pushed me to my limits, past where I thought I would have been able to go,” Ford said. “I came out on the other side realizing how capable I was and how much the program had, without my realizing, prepared me for it.”
The SLIM report is emailed to students as an online survey at the end of each semester. Visit Service-Learning’s Impact Data page to read the complete 2018-2019 SLIM report.