Service Learning in Higher Education Exercise Science Programs


Research Category

INTRODUCTION: Service Learning (SL) describes teaching methods that incorporate student service activities with specific learning objectives. SL has been applied to allied health higher education programs.

PURPOSE: To determine the applicability of SL to exercise science courses. SL data associated with an undergraduate course in exercise physiology serving a local fire department is examined.

METHODS: Among 90 firefighters, resting heart rate, blood pressure, estimated relative VO2 max, body composition, lower extremity power, upper body strength, flexibility, and perceived stress was assessed pre and post an education and physical activity intervention consisting of exercise prescriptions, supervised exercise programming and education for 60 minutes 1-3 times per week for 1 year. Learning outcomes among 34 participating students were assessed via a questionnaire assessing higher education SL. Secondary data was retrospectively examined for this study.

RESULTS: An increase in estimated VO2 max (+9%, p = .04), and upper body strength (+13%, p = .03) and a decrease in perceived stress (-34%, p = .00) were observed in the firefighters. Student SL data revealed 90% of students found that the activities were aligned with the course, 75% found that the activities enhanced communication skills, and 80% found that the activities enhanced relationships with faculty.

CONCLUSIONS: Positive outcomes of SL were observed in the firefighters and undergraduate students indicating that SL can be applied successfully to exercise science higher education courses.