School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Matthew D. Towles

Primary Subject Area

Education, Curriculum and Instruction; Education, Health


Composition Studies, First-Year Writing Course, Learning Outcomes, Quasi-Experimental Design, Service-Learning, Student Perceptions


The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a significant difference between students who completed a service-learning component and those who did not complete a service-learning component in the areas of student achievement of learning outcomes and perceptions of the course. Proponents of service-learning claim that students write higher quality papers and are more engaged, motivated, and satisfied when they complete a service-learning component. However, these findings are largely based on anecdotal and qualitative evidence that lack empirical evidence to strengthen these claims. This study employed a quasi-experimental design using static group comparison to measure differences between the groups. Student perceptions of the course were measured by the Academic Writing Student Perceptions Scales that demonstrated high reliability through Cronbach's alpha. Assessment of learning outcomes was accomplished by evaluating students' academic papers with the Learning Outcomes Assessment Rubric. To compare the groups, t-tests for independent samples and Cohen's d were utilized to determine significant differences and the effect size. Results indicated significant differences in student perceptions and in the achievement of learning outcomes. Medium effect sizes were found in student perceptions and large effect sizes were demonstrated in achievement of learning outcomes. These findings provide empirical evidence of the positive effect that a service-learning component has on an academic writing course. Implications for practice, recommendations for future research, and a call for more empirical studies in composition are also included in this study.