Making meaning of service-learning : the power of direct service and reflection
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand student perceptions and self-described meaning of their individual participation in service-learning and to enhance current research on service-learning in higher education. More specifically, this study examined what meaning white, female, undergraduate students with majors in Human and Environmental Sciences at a private, Midwest Catholic university assigned to participating in a service-learning during a course. In-depth interviews were conducted with 11 participants. In addition, final reflection papers, participant surveys and course syllabi were also utilized as data and added to the analysis process. Findings indicated that students made meaning of their service-learning through direct service or interactions with staff and clients at their service-learning sites, providing them with a new understanding and varying degrees of personal transformation in their thinking about service-learning, specific populations, and themselves. Participants expressed a new commitment and moreover, a collective responsibilities to give back to the community, but not a strong enough desire and commitment to actively engage in subsequent service. The results from the study substantiated the importance of reflection in service-learning. The lack of continuous, critical reflection in the course hindered the enhancement of participants' meaning making of service-learning. Furthermore, participants made meaning of their service-learning through connecting two of the course topics to their service-learning, thus enhancing their understanding and application of these two pieces of course content.
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