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In the last few years, several national reports on higher education have called for colleges and universities to take a more central role in providing moral and democratic education to college students. These developments suggest a renewed interest in collegiate goals that go beyond those that benefit the individual, continuing an emphasis in addressing the moral dimension of higher education that has existed for centuries. Courses with a service-learning component can be a powerful instrument for moral transformation. Working within Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory, this 16-week quasi-experimental case study investigated the extent to which service-learning advances moral development (movement from conventional to post conventional or principled judgment) in college students. Student outcomes were measured by using the Moral Judgment Interview (MJI) technique and follow-up interviews were conducted and analyzed. Results of this project suggest that students who participate in service learning projects reap many benefits, including enhanced personal skills, motivation to learn, and most important, an increased moral development. Further research into this area is needed to inform policies and practices of higher education institutions regarding the connection between moral development and service learning pedagogy.

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2020


Service-learning, moral development, moral judgement interview


Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Leadership | Higher Education | Higher Education and Teaching | Humane Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


Michael Coquyt, Ed.D, currently works at Minnesota State University - Moorhead where he is one of the core faculty members of the doctoral program and coordinates the Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership graduate programs. He has experience as a high school social studies teacher and also a high school principal and district superintendent. He received his undergraduate degree in Psychology and 7-12 Social Studies Teaching from Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN, and received his master’s degree in Medieval History and his Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from St. Cloud State University. His research interests include service-learning in higher education and teacher leadership in the K-12 setting.

The Effects of Service-Learning on the Moral Development of College Students