Service learning: Meaningful, community-centered professional skill development for occupational therapy students

Anne Marie Witchger Hansen, Jaime Muñoz, Patricia A. Crist, Jyothi Gupta, Roger I. Ideishi, Loree A. Primeau, Debra Tupé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The profession of Occupational Therapy advocates for new and emerging areas of practice that more fully embrace our moral responsibility to address significant social injustices that exist in our communities (Kronenberg, Algado, & Pollard, 2005). The service-learning pedagogy is impacted by the philosophical and theoretical influences of John Dewey, the mission and purpose of American higher education including Boyer's (1994) call for an engaged citizenry, and the social vision of occupational therapy. The pedagogy of service learning provides a natural context for students to experience community practice while contributing to reducing existing social injustices. This paper provides an overview of service learning (SL) as a philosophical and pedagogical approach in occupational therapy education, key processes in developing successful service learning experiences and community partnerships to support service learning. Characteristics of effective service learning, assessment of community and institutional outcomes of service learning and the scholarship of service learning are also discussed. Most importantly, strategies for developing service learning scholarship, an important but frequently neglected requisite to validate any educational practice, are delineated. The authors conclude that service learning provides educators with an opportunity to provide students with experiences in natural, community contexts while developing life-long commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-49
Number of pages25
JournalOccupational Therapy in Health Care
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 18 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Civic engagement
  • Educational pedagogy
  • Service learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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