This mixed research methods study explores whether project-based service-learning projects promote greater learning than standard project-based projects and whether introduced earlier into the curriculum promotes a greater student understanding of the world issues affecting their community. The present study focused on comparing sophomore and junior residential interior design courses that had project-based service-learning assignments. Both undergraduate sophomore and junior courses developed standard design project assignments in the first half of the academic semester and a project-based service-learning assignment in the second half of the academic semester. Collection of research participants’ perceptions was through pre and post surveys and course-required reflection journals. The research findings indicated that the opportunity to work with an actual non-for-profit client and actual building were the most important influence on student learning outcomes. Yet, findings also indicate that on a more personal level students reported experiencing deeper emotional growth due to their knowledge that their design solutions would ultimately improve the lives of others in the community. Furthermore, evidence shows that the service component of the project had no significant influence in student learning, regardless of academic level. Consequently, suggesting that project based service assignments may occur at any point in the curriculum.

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