22 SES 14 A, Paper Session
Volunteer work is an important activity that contributes to the social development of community and increases social cohesion (Chadderton, 2016; Putnam et al., 1993). A Canadian national survey (see Turcotte, 2015) found that almost 44% of Canadians aged 15 years and older participated in volunteer work. This matches trends in parts of Europe where a significant proportion of the adult population participates in volunteer work (see GHK, 2010). Because of the numerous benefits of volunteer work, many universities are providing opportunities for this form of student engagement.
The benefits of university students’ volunteer work accrue to local communities, universities, as well as students themselves. Several European, North American, and other studies have explored the various benefits that undergraduate students associate with volunteer work (Hustinx et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2010) including greater “hope, intrinsic goal orientation, confidence in attaining their goals, and academic self-efficacy” (Purdie et al., 2011, p. 722) as well as enhanced self-identity, leadership skills, social networks, soft credentials, and career prospects and pathways (Stuart et al., 2011; Tomlinson, 2008). By leveraging unpaid work opportunities, students are able to acquire and mobilize various forms of capital and may enhance their employability and career plans (Bathmaker et al., 2013). Findings from our previous studies of curricular community service-learning, where unpaid work with communities is built into academic courses, demonstrate some significant academic- and employment-related benefits of student involvement in community volunteer work (Raykov & Taylor, 2018; Taylor et al., 2015).
While students' paid work is a frequent topic of research studies in the domain of higher education, the extent and the intensity of student volunteer work less frequently attract the attention of researchers. For example, it is surprising that little attention appears to be paid to students’ unpaid work (vis-à-vis paid work) in European studies such as the Eurostudent project (see https://www.eurostudent.eu/publications). Another area that is insufficiently explored in extant literature is the influence of unpaid work (in relation to paid work) on students’ academic work and career prospects. Our paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the extent and intensity of students' involvement in volunteer work, as well as their motivations for, and the perceived benefits of, volunteer work in relation to paid work.
This study draws on data from the Hard Working Student research project, a longitudinal mixed methods study involving over 3,000 undergraduate students at two major universities in Canada, to delve into the complexity of relationships between paid and unpaid/volunteer work. As an explanatory sequential mixed methods study (Creswell, 2014), quantitative data collection with 2,987 students was followed by qualitative data collection with 108 students. This paper is based on qualitative and quantitative data from one of the two research sites. Quantitative data were drawn from an online survey that was conducted as the first phase of this study in spring 2019. Undergraduate students who completed the annual institutional survey were directed to our survey module that focused on their work and learning, and 2,987 students participated in our module. Exploratory statistical techniques (percentages and means) were applied to describe the incidence and intensity of student involvement in unpaid work, and our analysis also included a set of bivariate comparisons of students' basic demographic characteristics and their participation in unpaid work. Chi-square tests were applied to compare students' perceptions of the outcomes of unpaid and paid work. Our current work is focused on further, more complex quantitative analysis that aims to determine the relative strength of the relationships between participation in volunteer work and student demographic characteristics. Current work also involves triangulation of the findings from quantitative and qualitative data collected through our ongoing research project. Qualitative data collection for this study spans three years (2019 to 2021) and involves focus group interviews, life mapping activities, audio diaries, and individual interviews. This presentation draws upon data collected from 57 undergraduate students. Focus group interviews delved into participants' thoughts about paid and unpaid work, including transitions and relationships between (paid and unpaid) work and study. Life mapping activities involved participants creating visual maps of major milestones in their lives since high school and discussing how events and circumstances influenced their academic and career trajectories. Audio diaries involved students’ recordings of their responses to prompts immediately before and after class and work. Individual interviews were aimed at learning more about participants’ personal circumstances in relation to (paid and unpaid) work and studies. Analysis of qualitative data is currently underway, and emerging findings will be included in this presentation.
Our 2019 survey found that almost half (44%) of the undergraduate students were involved in volunteer activities during their university studies and that student who engaged in such work spent around 6 hours per week on it. The survey confirmed students' keen interest in volunteer work but also found that students struggle to balance their paid and unpaid work, class attendance, and individual learning, and that these factors deterred their involvement in volunteer activities (Taylor et al., 2020). The results indicated that although students spend far less time on unpaid work than paid work, they perceive the impact of volunteer work on their studies and career plans as more positive than the impact of paid work (Raykov et al., 2020). They felt that unpaid work: is more frequently related to their studies than their paid work (Chi-sq. = 135.465***); helps them develop skills related to their future career (Chi-sq. = 33.977***); more frequently influences their education (Chi-sq. = 91.668***) and future career plans (Chi-sq. = 94.2377***); and makes them more interested in university than paid work does (Chi-sq. = 115.891***). Our qualitative data offer some explanations for these findings and indicate that undergraduate students often regard volunteer work as an opportunity to: explore different career options (taster experience); gain experience (including leadership experience and career-related work) that may be unavailable to them as paid work; strengthen applications for graduate studies; and engage in work that they find socially valuable and are able to take ownership of. Students also describe their unpaid or volunteer work as beneficial for the development of their social networks and having a positive effect on their mental well-being and time management skills.
Bathmaker, A.-M., Ingram, N., & Waller, R. (2013). Higher education, social class and the mobilisation of capitals: Recognising and playing the game. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(5–6), 723–743. Chadderton, C. (2016). Volunteering, social cohesion and race: The German Technical Relief Service. Voluntary Sector Review, 7(3), 233-249. Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). SAGE Publications. GHK. (2010). Volunteering in the European Union: Study on volunteering in the European Union. Final report. Hustinx, L., Handy, F., Cnaan, R. A., Brudney, J. L., Pessi, A. B., & Yamauchi, N. (2010). Social and cultural origins of motivations to volunteer: A comparison of university students in six countries. International Sociology, 25(3), 349–382. Purdie, F., McAdie, T., King, N., & Ward, L. (2011). In the right placement at the right time? An investigation of the psychological outcomes of placement learning. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29, 717–724. Putnam, R., Leonardi, R. & Nanetti, R. (1993). Making democracy work. Princeton University Press. Raykov, M. & Taylor, A. (2018). Beyond learning for earning: The long-term outcomes of course-based and immersion service learning. University of British Columbia. Raykov, M., Taylor, A., Jamal, S., & Wu, S. (2020). Student volunteer work and learning: Undergraduates’ experiences and self-reported outcomes. University of British Columbia. Smith, K., Holmes, K., Haski-Leventhal, D., Cnaan, R. A., Handy, F., & Brudney, J. L. (2010). Motivations and benefits of student volunteering: Comparing regular, occasional, and non-volunteers in five countries. Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research, 1(1), 65–81. Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan, J., Solomon, L., & May, S. (2011). The impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 203–215. Taylor, A., Butterwick, S., Raykov, M., Glick, S., Peikazadi, N. & Mehrabi, S. (2015). Community service-learning in Canadian higher education. University of British Columbia. Taylor, A., Raykov, M., & Sweet, R. (2020). Hard Working Students: Report of 2018 and 2019 Survey Findings. University of British Columbia. Tomlinson, M. (2008). ‘The degree is not enough’: Students’ perceptions of the role of higher education credentials for graduate work and employability. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(1), 49–61. Turcotte, M. (2015). Volunteering and charitable giving in Canada. Statistics Canada.
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