Service-Learning: Empowering Students with Special Needs  

Traditionally students with special needs have been viewed as 
recipients and beneficiaries of service-learning projects.  
This article demonstrates that service-learning pedagogy can 
be used to transform the traditional “deficit” model into a 
“reciprocal empowerment” model.  The authors employed a qualitative 
and quantitative design.  Using the qualitative method, 
“Portraiture”, each project was analyzed and categorized under 
the “deficit,” “empowerment,” and “reciprocal empowerment” 
categories. The results showed a significant decrease in the 
percentage of projects under the “deficit” model, whereas the 
“reciprocal empowerment” model perspective became more prominent 
over the four years of the study.  The authors conclude that by 
re-conceptualizing and deliberately structuring the service-learning 
environment educators can provide opportunities for all students to 
become contributors, problem solvers, and partners in improving