Service learning has been proposed as a way to create a meaningful environment for the language acquisition process (Weldon & Trautmann, 2003). As a pedagogical tool for second language acquisition the greatest benefit of utilizing service learning activities is that it creates connections to the target language community and provides authentic experiences for target language use (Long, 2003; Morris, 2001). However, there is no detailed record of how service learning actually impacts language and culture acquisition (Bloom, 2008). This multiple case study describes the ways in which four advanced Spanish learners engaged with service learning and the influence of this activity on their ability to communicate in the target language. Each case provides triangulated descriptions of what actually occurred when students went onsite to engage in service learning activities, what their personal reflections were on the experience, and how they carried this experience back into their classroom and academic work. Qualitative analysis of onsite and in-class observations, face-to-face interviews, electronic journal entries, and reflective written reports revealed the importance of the nature of interactions and language use in service learning for second-language acquisition. Where the service was more academically aligned and offered repeated interactions in the target language, students were more likely to advance their language skills. However, though the service may provide an important community contribution, all service learning did not prove equal in its ability to instruct and align with desired educational outcomes.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Service learning, second language acquisition, case study