Integrating community service learning into a master’s program

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: In order to address the complex problems of society, the innovation research process should incorporate technical, social, economic and ethical factors, but also actively involve a diverse group of non-scientific actors. One way to prepare students for this type of research is to create “Citizen Scholars,” students who want to work for the betterment of society. Arvanitakis and Hornsby (2016) argue that we need to change how we teach and train students in specific proficiencies. The purpose of this paper is to assess how the pedagogical approach applied within the program contributes to building the proficiencies and attributes as described by Arvanitakis and Hornsby (2016). Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a total of 12 interviews with alumni who started their program in 2014, one focus group discussion with lecturers and 132 questionnaires with alumni to discuss to what extend the proficiencies are trained in the program and whether these are used in their current jobs. The authors also included data of an earlier study conducted in 2014. These data contain 26 interviews with students during the first year of the program. These students graduated in 2017 and are thus from the same cohort as the alumni. Findings: The results show that the pedagogical approach in the management policy analysis program trains all the attributes. Important elements in the program are: the inquiry-based approach intertwined with community service learning (CSL) throughout the program; gradually increased complexity of the real-world problems addressed; students working in teams; and gradually reducing support of the lecturer. Research limitations/implications: The authors conclude that our pedagogical approach applied in the program contributes to learning the proficiencies. The authors argue that for the training of inter- and transdisciplinary, the proficiency knowledge integration should be added. Practical implications: The result show that more inquiry-based approaches and CSL programs can stimulate the four clusters of proficiencies, which should hold a central place in universities if we want to create citizen scholars. Social implications: With the approach, students contribute to research issues of local communities. Originality/value: Despite the increasing interest of higher education to involve civic activities in the curricula, few pedagogical approaches are described. The research shows that theoretical insights in the adaption of a model to realize a citizen scholar. © 2019, Marjolein Zweekhorst and Dirk Essink.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-249
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2019


  • Citizen scholar
  • Community service learning
  • Education
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Transdisciplinary


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