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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to test whether engaging in course service-learning projects can impact interpersonal oral communication confidence and skill development beyond that of traditional course research projects.

Design/methodology/approach – Three sections of a university management course were randomly assigned to have a service-learning team project, while the other three retained the traditional research team project. All projects were student-generated. Survey data were collected at the beginning of the semester and at the end four months later.

Findings – Results indicated that service-learning produces greater oral communication self-efficacy. For female students, service-learning projects also increased their interpersonal communication self-efficacy and interpersonal communication competence (but not for males).

Research limitations/implications – The sample was limited to students in a management course, service-learning projects were only completed by groups and the study did not examine outcomes beyond four months. Future research could examine outcomes from projects by individuals, and examine what service-learning components create differing results between men and women.

Practical implications – Oral communication confidence can be bolstered through service-learning. Benefits may depend upon participant characteristics (like gender). Inasmuch as different service-learning projects positively impacted oral communication, students can be given flexibility in the kinds of projects they undertake.

Originality/value – This study answered the widespread calls for empirical data to support the claims of service-learning as a beneficial pedagogical tool. The experimental and measurement design overcame the limitations of some previous research. In addition, the study examined the crucial skill area of interpersonal oral communication.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License