How does US college students’ sense of life purpose relate to their emotional expectations of being a volunteer in the community as part of a service-learning course?

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Seana Moran
Randi Garcia


INTRODUCTION. Few studies consider how purpose in life predicts emotions related to community service in college courses even though a purpose in life, a “compass” for finding opportunities to make meaningful prosocial contributions, should motivate students to serve. METHOD. Multilevel structural equation modeling estimated direct and indirect effects of survey responses regarding students’ past service experience, sense of purpose, and searching for purpose on their emotional expectations for service-learning before starting. RESULTS. Controlling for age, gender, extrinsic motivation, and characteristics of universities and courses, students’ past service experience and two purpose variables positively related to expected positive emotions toward service work, mediated through both students’ helping identity and intrinsic motivation to serve. Only sense of purpose was associated with higher intrinsic motivation, which was associated with lower expected negative emotions. DISCUSSION. Considering students’ life purpose may stimulate intrinsic motivation and schemas of being a helping person, which could contribute to positive emotions toward community service even before the service work begins.


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Moran, S., & Garcia, R. (2019). How does US college students’ sense of life purpose relate to their emotional expectations of being a volunteer in the community as part of a service-learning course?. Bordón. Revista De Pedagogía, 71(3), 45–62.
Biografía del autor/a

Seana Moran, Clark University

Research Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology.

CV: Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education. Principal Investigator of US$1.45 million grant and multinational collaboration to study how youth purpose development and service-learning experiences influence each other. Editor of 2 special issues of Journal of Moral Education on youth purpose around the world and on purpose-in-action education. Co-editor of special journal issue and book on teaching for purpose around the world.

Randi Garcia, Smith College, 10 Elm Street, Northampton, MA, 01063, USA; 1-413-585-3698;

Assistant Professor of Psychology and of Statistical & Data Sciences.

CV: Ph.D, University of Connecticut. Statistician for Dr. Moran’s grant. Intergroup Relationships Lab studying gender-typed behavior, sexual objectification, racial attitudes, and actor-partner interdependence models of group composition and member characteristics.


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