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  The Journal of Effective Teaching
an online journal devoted to teaching excellence

 


Journal of Effective Teaching, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2011   PDF Version

Simons, L., Williams, E., & Russell, B. (2011). An Exploration of the Value of Service-Learning: Characteristics of Traditional and Honor Service-Learners. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 11(1), 6-18. [Abstract]


 

An Exploration of the Value of Service-Learning:
Characteristics of Traditional and Honor Service-Learners
 

Lori Simons[1], Elizabeth Williams, and Brittany Russell

Widener University, Chester, PA, 19013 

 

Abstract 

This study explored the value of service for undergraduate students enrolled in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course. A quasi-experimental study was conducted to identify if students who participated in an Honors (n = 18) section of a service-learning course show greater gains in attitudes and skills associated with community engagement over the semester than students who participated in a non-Honors (n = 28) course section. The results indicate that students improve their diversity and social justice attitudes, acquire competence and leadership skills, and increase their desire to make a difference through participation in short-term service projects by the end of the term, regardless of whether they were in the Honors or non-Honors course. Community partners also appraised both student groups as self-starters who exercise good judgment in their work with service recipients. The consistency of data from teacher and student reports suggests that service-learning is a useful pedagogical strategy for teaching students in both Honors and non-Honors courses.

 

Keywords: Service-learning, honors and non-honors courses, student perceptions of service.

 

 

Institutions of higher education (IHE) have implemented service-learning courses in liberal arts curricula as a way to help students learn the course concepts, understand the conditions that lead to racial and economic disparities in the community, and become responsible citizens (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Sperling, 2007). Service-learning is a pedagogical approach that requires students to connect the course content to the service context through reflection and discussion (Eyler & Giles, 1999). Educators not only view service-learning as an effective method to teach about the complexities of race and culture, but they also perceive it as a strategy that promotes academic and civic engagement (Conley & Hamlin, 2009; Yeh, 2010). The present study investigates the extent to which students acquire attitudes, skills, and preferences for community engagement through participation in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course.

  

Service-Learning Research

 

Investigations on service-learning have noted improvements in social justice attitudes and community engagement among undergraduate students (Eyler & Giles, 1999). Conley and Hamlin (2009) conducted a case analysis on reflections from five students enrolled in a semester-long, first-year seminar at an inner-city college. These researchers found that all five participants changed their thoughts about power, privilege, and difference and gained an understanding of the conditions that lead to inequities in society, but only one participant noted a desire to pursue a career involving service. Yeh (2010) also conducted a content analysis on participant responses. In this study, a semi-structured interview was administered to a purposeful sample of 10 students enrolled in service-learning courses at two research universities. Her findings indicate that participants gain awareness and understanding of the disenfranchised communities in which they worked. McKay and Estrella (2008) identified common themes gathered with open-ended questions from 43 students enrolled in 20 service-learning courses at a large metropolitan university, and discovered that students improved their comprehension of social justice concepts and interest in community service. This body of qualitative research suggests that service-learning counters assumptions made by students about recipients who are racially, economically, and socially different from them. Students are situated in a service context which forces them to confront their own beliefs and formulate new attitudes that lead to potential changes in service participation.

 

Scholars have echoed similar sentiments about the influence from service-learning on attitude-formation and skill-development in quantitative investigations. Gallini and Moely (2003) conducted a survey with 142 service-learning and 71 nonservice-learning students enrolled in undergraduate courses in the College of Arts and Sciences at a private research university. Findings from this study indicate that service-learners have higher ratings of academic, interpersonal, and community engagement than nonservice-learners. Moely, McFarland, Miron, Mercer & Ilustre (2002) also conducted a pretest and a posttest survey study on political awareness, civic action, diversity, and social justice attitudes, and problem-solving and leadership skills with 217 service-learners and 324 nonservice-learners enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences. These researchers found that students did not differ in scores at the beginning of the semester, but by the end of the semester service-learners had higher civic action, social justice, leadership, and problem-solving scores than did nonservice-learners. C. A. Payne (2000) similarly conducted a pretest and a posttest survey study on preferences for participation in service with 83 students enrolled in four sections of a service-learning course at a large public institution. His findings indicate that student apprehension decreased and participation in short-term service increased by the course end. Taken together, the quantitative research enhances the qualitative findings, and strengthens the perspective that the learning aspect of service-learning is the transformation of student thoughts, attitudes, and skills. Service-learning causes students to rethink their views of and reshape their interpersonal skills for community engagement.

 

Educators propose that the benefits derived from student participation in service-learning are also likely to be detected for undergraduates enrolled in service-based Honors courses (Scott & Frana, 2008), although relatively few studies have been conducted on this group of students. In fact, much research in this area is descriptive and either depicts the service-learning project in Honors courses/programs or explains how the service context can serve as a lab and foster inquiry-based and problem-solving skills (Fink & Lunsford, 2009; Scott & Frana, 2008). Powell (2008) conducted an observational study that describes a semester-long project for six Honors students at a Christian college, and surmised that participants deconstruct their stereotypes after reflecting on the diversity reading material and the service experience. Gibboney (1996) conducted a longitudinal study with 13 students enrolled in an Honors seminar at a mid-size university and used a grounded theory technique to analyze their journals and papers. Participant reflections indicate that service-learning fostered beliefs about the importance of service, but that it did not contribute to active or ongoing service beyond the course. Student attitude-formation and skill-development are complex processes; however, service-learning may be a useful method for nurturing student perspectives about participation in service, but only if reflection is an integral part of the course. The current study builds on previous research and explores the differences in perceptions of service for undergraduate students enrolled in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course. Two research questions are addressed in this study:

 

(1) Did students who participated in an Honors section of a service-learning course show greater gains in attitudes and skills as indicated by increases in political awareness, civic action, diversity, and social justice attitudes, and leadership and problem-solving skills, social competence, and preferences for short- and long-term community engagement over the semester than those who participated in a non-Honors section of the course?

 

(2) Did community partners have higher ratings of professional behaviors for students who participated in an Honors section of a service-learning course compared to those who participated in a non-Honors section of the course?

 

Research Setting

 

Course Content. The educational psychology course is a three-credit, two-hundred level, interdisciplinary course that fulfills a social science distribution requirement of the general education curriculum. This course also serves as a prerequisite for upper-level education courses and requires 15 hours of tutoring or mentoring as a service activity at a public school, an alternative school, and an after-school program to meet the National Council Accreditation for Teacher Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education standards. The major goal of this course is to prepare students to work with children and adolescents at either a compensatory preschool or a public school. In-class time (50 minutes, 3 times per week, 15 weeks) began with a lecture on service-learning. The next two classes consisted of a two-hour orientation on mentoring and tutoring by guest speakers representing the three placements. The rest of the course is devoted to lecture, activities and discussion that correspond to the assigned readings in the text (Slavin, 2009). Topics covered in this course include: Characteristics of an intentional teacher, research methods, standardized testing and student assessment, learning theories, student diversity, learners with exceptionalities and accommodations, and student centered approaches to teaching and effective learning environments. Students are required to complete three examinations, a journal guided by structured reflection questions, and two out of four essays. The essay assignment describes a case study about standardized testing and student assessment, student diversity, achievement motivation, or learning environments, and requires students to apply the course concepts, compare and contrast developmental, behavioral, and motivational theories, and integrate both theories and research to support their position about the proposed case. Service-learning is used as a the primary pedagogical strategy in this course, and students are required to complete structured refection questions after each hour of service so that they can describe their thoughts and feelings about the service activity and connect the service context to the course content. The course ends with a reflective discussion between students and teachers at each placement.

 

Service Context. Students either tutored or mentored children and adolescents who differ from them in race and culture at a public school, an alternative school, and an after-school program in a district that was under educational reform and governed by a private company to improve student performance on state assessment indicators. All educational programs in the district qualify for Federal Title funding for basic academic programming, because standardized test scores reveal that in the third grade less than 40% of the children score at a proficient level in Mathematics and only 46% score at a proficient level in Reading (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), 2007). The service activities were designed through a collaborative partnership with both elementary and alternative school principals. Teachers refined the activities that were used to boost student performance.

 

Honors Program. The educational psychology course was one of the first courses to be included in the institution's academic service-learning program and to receive a service-learning designation (2003-2004). In the fall of 2004, the Director of the Honors Program requested that the educational psychology course be taught as an Honors course during the spring of 2005. Although deliberations transpired about whether to require the service component for the Honors section of the course because the Honors Program consists of students from a range of disciplines that do not easily lend itself to work with children, the decision was made to maintain this requirement to meet the student demand from community partners. The Honors section of the course presented an opportunity to explore the differences in student perceptions of service and to give teachers a chance to assess their professionalism at the placement so that the university-community partnership could be strengthened.

 

The Honors program in general education offers a unique approach to higher education and is centered on the idea of making students critical thinkers through participatory learning in seminars that are relevant to the global world. Both seminars and colloquia differ from non-honors courses in that they are smaller and discussion-oriented (http://www.widener.edu/acadmics/honorsprogram). This program requires students to take introductory courses and advanced seminars and participate in social activities (i.e., dinners with professors), field trips, and campus or community service. Students in the Honors program function as a learning community in that they reside in the same dormitory and participate in campus organizations together during all four-years of college (i.e., Academic Honor Societies, Presidential Service Corps, and Engineers without Borders), but still are integrated into the larger university community. The criteria for admission into the Honors Program includes a minimum SAT score of 1200 and a minimum high school grade point average (GPA) of 3.40. Students have to maintain a GPA of 3.25 to remain in the program (http://www.widener.edu/academics/honorsprogram). The educational psychology course served as an introductory course in the Honors program during the spring of 2005, but the service component did not fulfill the program's community service requirement. The Honors section of this course required students to take the same examinations and complete identical assignments as those in the non-Honors section, but students in the Honors sections were given additional diversity readings (i.e., White privilege, racial identity models) to develop a deeper understanding of the course content and service context. Students in the Honors sections also took part in a dinner and discussion at the instructor's home at the end of the semester.

 

Method

Participants

 

College Students. Undergraduate students from a private teaching university in a northern metropolitan area completed a survey about their attitudes and preferences for community engagement. Data were gathered from 46 students at the beginning and at the end of the semester during the 2005 spring semester. Most students identified themselves as White (96%) and female (83%) as shown in Table 1. Students in the Honors section (= 3.70) did not differ in demographics from those in the non-Honors section (= 3.05), except for college GPA t (41) -6.34, p<.000. Independent t-tests and chi-square tests were used to compare demographic characteristics of students in both course sections. Most students in both course sections worked as tutors (90%) at a public elementary school (44%), an alternative school (23%), and an after-school program (33%).
 

Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Students Enrolled in an Honors and a

Non-Honors Section of a Service-learning Course.          

                                                      Service-Learning Courses

                                                Honors                    Non-Honors

Demographics                           (n = 18)                                    (n = 28)

                                                  n            %                    n       %                                            

Age (M, SD)                                         9.44 (1.75)           19.17 (1.15)

Gender

Male                                           4        22                      4        14                                            

Female                                     14         78                    24         86

 

Ethnicity

White                                       18         100                   26         93

Asian American                                                -----                    2          7

 

Year in School

Freshman                                    8        44                    15         54

Sophomore                                  6        33                      7        25

Junior                                         1           6                     4        14

Senior                                       18         17                      2          7

 

College GPA (M, SD)   ***                   3.76 (.16)                      3.05 (.44)

High School GPA (M, SD)                     3.47 (.65)                      3.43 (.54)

College Major

Social Science                             8        45                     13         46

Humanities                                  0        ---                      1          4

Science                                       2        11                       1          4

Education                                    4        22                     13         46

Nursing                                       2        11                     ---        ---

Engineering                                 2        11                     ---        ---

 

Service Placements and Activities

Public School                              9        50                     14         50

Alternative School                       3        16                       2          7

After-School Program                 6        34                     12         43

 

Tutor                                        16         89                     24         92

Mentor                                       2        11                       2          8

 

Continued to participate

in service                                   8        44                     17         61

Kept in contact with                 

the placement                             6        33                     11         39

Participation in service

in the future                               9        50                     21         75

                                                                                                                                               

Note. ***p <.001.

 

 

Measures

 

A Demographic Questionnaire, developed by the researchers, was used to gather information on gender, race, age, GPA, and year in school.

 

The Civic Attitudes and Skills Questionnaire (CASQ), developed by Moely, Mercer, Ilustre, Miron, and McFarland (2002), assessed civic attitudes and skills. The CASQ, an 84-item self-report questionnaire, yields scores on six scales: 1. Civic Action (respondents evaluate their intentions to become involved in the future in some community service): 2. Interpersonal and Problem-Solving Skills (respondents evaluate their ability to listen, work cooperatively, communicate, make friends, take the role of the other, think logically and analytically, and solve problems): 3. Political awareness (respondents evaluate their awareness of local and national events and political issues): 4. Leadership skills (respondents evaluate their ability to lead and effectiveness as a leader): 5. Social Justice Attitudes (respondents rate their agreement with items expressing attitudes concerning the causes of poverty and misfortune and how social problems can be solved): and 6. Diversity Attitudes (respondents describe their attitudes toward diversity and their interest in relating to culturally different people). Internal consistencies for each scale ranged from .69 to .88, and test-retest reliabilities for each scale ranged from .56 to .81.

 

The Community Service Involvement Preference Inventory (CSIPI), developed by C. A. Payne (2000) assessed community engagement. The CSIPI is a 48-item paper and pencil inventory designed to assess 4 preferences: 1. Exploration Involvement Preference (this score reflects the affective nature of apprehension common in new experiences, and it demonstrates the behavioral perspective that commitment is short term and is usually at the convenience of the helper): 2. Affiliation Involvement Preference (this score reflects behavior motivation for recognition and commitments tend to be infrequent and shorter in duration): 3. Experimentation Involvement Preference (this score reflects the desire to make a difference in the lives of others and to learn more about the community): and 4. Assimilation Involvement Preference (this score reflects cognitive processes with career and lifestyle decisions based on the service experience as a way to understand what it means to be a responsible citizen). Internal consistencies for Exploration (r = .63), Affiliation (r = .70), Experimentation (r = .74), and Assimilation (r = .70) preferences were modest. 

 

The Service-learning Performance Checklist, developed by D. A. Payne (2000), measured community partners' satisfaction with student preparedness and professionalism. Scores for each item ranges from 1 to 5, and the higher score indicates greater teacher satisfaction with student preparedness. Alpha coefficient for 25 items is high (α = .81).

 

The Texas Social Behavior Inventory-Short Form (TSBI), developed by Helmreich and Strapp (1974 as cited in Bringle, Phillips, & Hudson, 2004), measured self-esteem and social competence. The TSBI is composed of 32 items, and items are added together to produce a full-scale score with a higher score indicating greater social competence. Reliability coefficients are high (r =.85).

 

Design and Procedure

 

A quasi-experimental research design was used to measure differences in student attitudes, skills, and preferences for community engagement between students enrolled in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course from the beginning to the end of the semester. All of the participants completed an informed consent form and a pretest survey measuring civic attitudes and skills, social competence, and community engagement. Participants completed the survey, placed it in a coded, confidential envelope and gave it directly to the researcher. Surveys took about 45 minutes to complete. Students completed this survey again after they completed 15-hours of service. A research assistant administered a postservice survey to each teacher at each placement site. Teachers completed the survey on each participant with whom he/she was paired at their own pace and returned it in a coded, confidential envelope to the researcher. Each survey took approximately 20 minutes to complete. The teacher response rate was 87%, congruent with survey research (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1991).

 

Results

 

A repeated measure analyses of variance with planned Bonferonni t pairwise comparisons was conducted to evaluate change in attitudes, skills, and preferences for community engagement between students in Honors and non-Honors course sections from the beginning to the end of the semester. The pretest and posttest scores for CASQ, CSIPI, TSBI was the dependent variables and the Honors and non-Honors course section was the independent variable. There were significant main effects for time as shown in Table 2. Main effects for time indicate that students improved their diversity and social justice attitudes, leadership and competence, and affiliation involvement preferences for participation in short-term service projects. Students also decreased their apprehension for participation (i.e., exploration preference) and increased their desire to make difference in the lives of recipients through participation (i.e., experimentation preference) in service by the end of the term, regardless of whether they were in the Honors or non-Honors course section.

 

 

Table 2. Pretest and Postest Mean Scores and Standard Deviations as a Function

of  Honors and Non-Honors Course Sections.                                                                   

                                                                                                                                               

                                                            Time Points

                                                Pretest                          Posttest

Measure                                   M         SD                   M         SD       df         F                     

CASQ

Course Value                           39.00   5.47                 38.48   6.33     41        .90

Civic Action                             26.26   4.22                 26.57   4.71     40        .70

Social Justice                            28.92   3.61                 30.92   4.40     40    15.75***

Problem-Solving                       40.83   4.87                 41.34   5.52     41        .31

Diversity                                   12.68   1.88                 14.37   2.75     43     18.87***           

Leadership Skills                        9.83   1.25                 14.58   2.63     41   140.05***           

Political Awareness                   17.37   3.85                 18.88   7.14     43       2.93

 

TSBI                                        56.65   9.43                 60.13   7.73     42      11.87***

 

CSIPI

Exploration                               32.91   3.56                 30.27   3.39     42      24.78***

Experimentation                        37.60   4.85                 46.67   4.94     41    169.40***

Assimilation                              41.64   5.97                 43.02   5.31     42        3.22

Affiliation                                  25.19   4.51                 33.90   5.59     40    128.15***

                                                                                                                                               

Note. MANOVA F rations are Wilk’s approximation. ***p<.000, *p<.05.

 

                                

A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted on the teacher evaluations to identify differences in professional behaviors for students enrolled in Honors and non-Honors course sections. There were no differences between the two groups. Teachers were generally satisfied with student work. Their evaluations revealed that they thought students in both sections were responsible (97%), empathetic (95%), and dependable (98%) as shown in Table 3.

 

Table 3. Community Partners Views of Students Enrolled in an Honors and a Non-Honors Section of a Service-learning Course.                                                                    

 

Items

Extremely

Dissatisfied

Somewhat Dissatisfied

Satisfied

Somewhat Satisfied

Extremely

Satisfied

Attendance

0

0

5

49

46

Reports to community site

0

0

3

46

51

Accepts responsibility

0

0

3

38

59

Enthusiastic and interested

0

0

5

39

56

Appropriate appearance and dress

 

0

 

0

 

2

 

54

 

44

Courteous and cooperative

0

0

0

33

67

Emotional maturity

0

0

0

36

64

Exercises good judgment when working with the children

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

46

 

 

54

Sincere

0

0

0

36

64

Relates well to the children and staff

 

0

 

0

 

5

 

46

 

49

Shows initiative

0

0

8

49

43

Assumes responsibility for his own learning

 

0

 

0

 

6

 

47

 

47

Asks appropriate questions

0

0

3

54

43

Begins work on time

0

0

3

56

41

Appreciates suggestions

0

0

2

54

44

Completes assigned tasks

0

0

3

55

42

Exhibits competence

0

0

0

38

52

Progressively requires less supervision

 

0

 

0

 

5

 

36

 

59

Dependable

0

0

2

44

54

Follows directions carefully

0

0

3

43

54

Interactions are appropriate with children and staff

 

0

 

0

 

3

 

41

 

56

Develops a good rapport with children and staff

 

0

 

0

 

3

 

49

 

48

Level of empathy

0

0

5

49

46

Level of concern or compassion

 

0

 

0

 

5

 

51

 

44

Level of commitment

0

0

6

47

47

 

 

Discussion

 

The current study adds to the service-learning research with the inclusion of an Honors section of a service-learning course. The primary objective of this study was to detect if students enrolled in an Honors section of a service-learning course make greater increases in attitudes and preferences for community engagement over the semester than students enrolled in a non-Honors section of the course. We found that students increase their interest in working with diverse recipients, improve their understanding of the social disparities in the community, and gain confidence and leadership skills by the end of the term, regardless of whether they were enrolled in an Honors or a non-Honors section of a service-learning course. Students also reduce their apprehension for participation in service and increase their desire to make a difference in the lives of recipients through participation in short-term service projects, consistent with previous research (Gibboney, 1996; Moely, McFarland, Miron, Mercer, & Ilustre, 2002; C. A. Payne, 2000) that suggests student interactions with recipients in a community context dismantles the attitudes and beliefs they have at the beginning of the semester, but it does not lead to continual participation in service beyond the course.

 

The lack of observed differences in attitudes and skills between students in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course may be attributed to student major, the course content, and the service context. Most students who took part in the Honors and the non-Honors section of a service-learning course were education and social science (i.e., psychology, sociology) majors. Students who major in education and social science seek careers that involve helping behaviors; therefore, both student groups may have been willing to participate in service. The similarities in personal dispositions of education and social science majors may account for the lack of observed differences in preferences for service participation between students in the Honors and the non-Honors course sections. In addition, both student groups made improvements in their attitudes and skills over the semester, even though students in the Honors section were given additional reading assignments related to White privilege and racial identity development. The racial content may not have been fully integrated in the Honors section of the course. For instance, students were required to read articles on White privilege or racial identity development, but they were not required to apply this information to answer structured reflection questions in the journal assignment. If students in the Honors section were required to critically think about the relationships among privilege, power, and oppression then they may have acquired a deeper understanding of racial disparities compared to students in the non-Honors section. Moreover, the service context afforded students a chance to work with children who differ from them racially and economically in a public school system that has outdated computers and lacks basic educational supplies (i.e., paper, pencils). Both student groups may have been able to connect the service context to the course content pertaining to student diversity and effective learning environments, which in turn may have fostered their deeper understanding of educational inequities in a public school and enhanced their confidence to make a difference in the lives of recipients through short-term commitments to service. The combination of the educational psychology (i.e., student diversity, learning environments) content and the service context may further explain the lack of observed differences in attitudes for students in the Honors and the non-Honors course sections.

 

A secondary objective of this study was to provide community partners with an opportunity to evaluate student preparedness and professionalism in their service activities with recipients; and, to identify if teachers make higher ratings of the work ethic for students who participated in the Honors section than students who experienced the non-Honors section of a service-learning course, because of the rigorous requirements of the Honors program. Most teachers were generally satisfied with the attendance, appearance and attire, and punctuality of students in both course sections. Their evaluations of both student groups also indicates that they thought students were responsible and dependable, exercised good judgment in their work with recipients, and established a commitment to the service-learning program at the placement. These findings are consistent with previous research (Ferrari & Worrall, 2000; Miron & Moely, 2006; Vernon & Ward, 1999) that found an overwhelming number of community partners have positive views of students, but organizations who had an active role in the planning and implementation phases of service activities are more likely to make favorable appraisals of their work skills.

 

The current study afforded us an opportunity to detect if it is worthwhile to include service-learning in an Honors course. Although students enrolled in an Honors course section did not differ in attitudes, skills, and preferences for community engagement from students in a non-Honors section, both student groups did transform their attitudes and skills. Students developed a deeper understanding of the educational inequities in an urban public school district and acquired leadership skills through participation in service-learning. Teachers made similar observations about both student groups and appraised them as self-starters who use sound judgment in their work with service recipients. The reliability of teacher and student reports suggests that service-learning is an effective strategy for teaching both Honors and non-Honors courses.

 

There are a few important contributions that can be made from this study which may be of value for faculty who are developing a service-learning course for the first time. Instructors will need to identify community partners and devote a great deal of time nurturing relationships with them, so that agencies are involved in the development and implementation phases of the service activity. It may be helpful for instructors to ask community partners how students could be of assistance or what are the unmet needs of the organization in which students could help and use their responses as a "starting point" for discussions about the type of service activities. Instructors will also need to negotiate service activities with community partners so that the activity not only fulfills an organizational need, but also allows students to connect the course content to the service context. Another suggestion is for instructors to incorporate new or revise existing objectives, activities, and assignments so that service is not simply an extra activity, but an integral part of the course. A key component in service-learning is reflection; therefore, instructors will need to infuse reflection in course activities and assignments. This could be done in a variety of ways such as incorporating questions about service on examinations, using case studies based on service experiences, and creating structured questions to guide daily journal reflections. A final suggestion is to include community partners in the development and implementation phases of the service-learning evaluation as a way to negate their perceptions of assessment as a burden. Instructors may want to ask community partners what student characteristics should be measured and which methods are less time-consuming for them to complete (i.e., checklists vs. open-ended questions). Assessment data should be shared with community partners and used to revise service activities. These suggestions may contribute to the enhancement of the university-community relationship.

 

Despite the mentioned benefits from this study, the results should be viewed in light of a few key limitations. The results from this study cannot be generalized beyond our sample of undergraduate students. The Widener student population is demographically homogenous. Most participants were White and female who came from middle-class backgrounds and whose parents did not go to or complete college. In addition, there are selection effects associated with the small number of freshmen and sophomores in the Honors and non-Honors course sections. Students in the Honors section did not differ in attitudes and skills associated with community engagement from students in the non-Honors section; however, differences may have been discovered if this study was conducted during their junior or senior year of college. Moreover, there is probably internal validity limitations associated with the service activities at three placements in a poor, urban public school system. Students tutored or mentored children and adolescents where the majority of them were African-American and came from lower-income backgrounds at an elementary school, an alternative school, and an after-school program in a district that was under educational reform and governed by a private company. The service experiences are unique and unlikely to be observed by other participants at this or another school district at a subsequent time. Finally, the use of multiple data sources from students and teachers does not prevent participant bias in written materials. There is the potential for self-report bias and testing effects to be associated with participant pretest and posttest surveys, as well as there is the likelihood of social desirability effects to be associated with teacher reports. Researchers may want to expand this study to generalize the results beyond the current sample of students. A comparative study that measures differences in student attitudes and skills over time should be conducted with larger samples of students enrolled in multiple service-learning courses that are part of both the Honors and non-honors program in general education at private and public institutions to address this study's limitations. This would make an interesting future study.

.

References

 

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Ferrari, J.R., & Worrall, L. (2000). Assessments by community agencies: How “the other side” sees service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service 
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[1] Corresponding author's email: Lorgold@aol.com

 

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