Exploring Service Learning as a Method to Enhance Professional Nursing Values Development

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 3:35 PM

Debra L. Fowler, PhD, MBA
School of Nursing, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: Describe the study findings that students participating in service learning scored significantly lower on a measure of professional values than did control group students.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss the need for rigorous experimental methods to research the efficacy of service learning goals and objectives.


The aim of this experimental study was to determine if Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) students who complete a service learning assignment score significantly higher on the Nursing Professional Values Scale – Revised (NPVS-R) compared to an attention control group of BSN students in the same nursing course. The service learning assignment consisted of 3 hours of service at a non-profit health care organization followed by reflection facilitated through online discussion groups and reflective paper. Attention control students attended a professional nursing meeting and described their observational experience in online discussion and a paper.


The NPVS-R was completed by 110 students; 56 in the intervention group and 54 in the attention control group. Data were analyzed using an independent t-test. Reliability of the NPVS-R was estimated using a Cronbach’s alpha and demographic data was described using frequencies, measures of central tendency, and measures of spread.


Findings indicated that students participating in a service learning assignment scored significantly lower (M = 99.43, SD = 11.032) than those in the attention control group (M = 105.07, SD = 11.293), (t(108) = -2.652, p = .005). The results not only fail to support the hypothesis, they provide data to indicate that students who were exposed to a more traditional assignment reported higher levels of professional values. 


This study is the first to apply experimental research methods to analyze the relationship between service learning and nursing professional values development. The findings call into question widely held assumptions about service learning. As service learning experiences in local and global communities are becoming more common, it is imperative that further research be conducted to provide evidence of the efficacy of this educational strategy.