Preparing students for special education: Lessons from a service-learning course

Document Type


Publication Date



Leadership and Counseling

Publication Title

International Journal for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement


This article discusses a qualitative study that focused on the experiences of 27 students majoring in special education who completed a service-learning course on intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the course, each student was paired with an individual with an intellectual and developmental disability, and engaged in weekly recreational activities exploring the local community. Through their study, the authors sought to understand three main phenomena. First, they explored the connection between service-learning and increased understanding about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Second, they investigated whether course content paired with service-learning impacted students' desire to pursue a career in special education. Finally, the authors examined the relationship between service-learning and the development of work-related skills in the field. Findings revealed that strengthening the connection between service-learning and special education not only reaffirmed students' career choices but also equipped them with skills to continue serving as educators.