Navigating the opportunities of service-learning placements: An exploration of benefits to host organisations of allied health service-learning placements




service-learning, higher education, role-emerging, allied health, clinical practice, university placement


Introduction: Service-learning placements are growing in allied health education programs. Within these placements, students bring their disciplinary perspective to work with an organisation on an identified project or need; as such, there should be equal weighting between student learning and service outcomes. Ensuring such reciprocity is essential to sustainable placement partnerships and is also an obligation of universities, considering their function of contributing to their communities. Yet there is limited research exploring organisational benefits of allied health service-learning placements. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the organisational benefits of hosting university students on allied health service-learning placements and how such benefits could be maximised.

Methods: Over 50 students from three different allied health disciplines attended a discipline-specific allied health service-learning placement at a school or childcare centre. Sixteen organisations hosted students between 2018 and 2021. Staff (n = 7) from seven of these organisations engaged in semi-structured interviews about their experiences hosting students. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.

Results: Findings were grouped into themes: benefits, resources, student-placement “fit” and supporting stakeholders. Six participants found the placements beneficial, and benefits appeared closely tied to the resources students produced. Organisational benefits may be increased through greater attention to student–placement fit and better supporting stakeholders.

Conclusions: The findings support the potential organisational benefits of service-learning student placements but highlight that achieving benefits cannot be assumed. To maximise the opportunities of service-learning placements, they should involve purposeful partnering, extensive preparation and clear communication between host organisations and universities.


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How to Cite

Irvine-Brown, L., Broadbridge, J., Campbell, S., Robinson, K., Clanchy, K., Baque, E., & Headrick, J. (2023). Navigating the opportunities of service-learning placements: An exploration of benefits to host organisations of allied health service-learning placements. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 24(4), 59–74.