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Service Learning and Youth Political Participation: A Mixed-Method Thesis

Taylor, Patrick John; (2021) Service Learning and Youth Political Participation: A Mixed-Method Thesis. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Young people participate in politics less than any other age group, and they might suffer materially as a result. Service learning is one policy that has received a substantial amount of public investment to attempt to solve this problem. However, the evidence to date on what effect service learning has, how this effect is produced, and how we might maximise it, is lacking. This thesis addresses these three questions with three studies. Study 1 uses a large quasi-experiment (N=5,486) with the UK’s National Citizen Service (NCS) to test the effects of service learning on young people’s political participation. It finds that NCS has a substantial positive effect. This is a new finding, and directly contradicts what some have argued in the literature. The study also estimates effects on a range of potential mediating mechanisms. These tests suggest that the observed increases in political participation do not come via a process of self-efficacy spillover. Study 2 uses interviews with 27 graduates of NCS to build a theory that does explain the effect. It finds that: i. there is substantial heterogeneity in the effects of service learning on political participation; ii. there are twelve, sometimes interdependent mechanisms that mediate these effects; and iii. there are up to sixteen moderating factors. Study 3 investigates how best to encourage participation post-service. It uses a large randomised controlled trial (N=227,372) to test the effects of three different email messages on NCS graduates’ participation in political letter writing. A ‘plain’ invitation is pitted against two alternative messages that draw on the theories of self-efficacy and identity. It finds that the theory-informed messages perform no better than the plain invitation in encouraging participation. These are important contributions to the literature that also have crucial significance to policy makers and practitioners who want to increase youth political participation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Service Learning and Youth Political Participation: A Mixed-Method Thesis
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10130309
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