A service learning course for college science majors
Scott, Anna Katherine
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Service learning has garnered a great deal of attention as a teaching methodology with the potential to influence students’ development as citizens while providing them rich contexts in which to learn academic material. Many believe that service learning is related to gains in academic achievement, though the mechanisms underlying this relation are not well understood. I argue that service-learning bears investigation regarding its relationship to the development of habits consistent with a state scholars have termed intellectual independence. This document reports on two efforts aimed at understanding the learning outcomes stemming from service-learning participation. First, I studied science majors enrolled in a K-12 service-learning partnership using a quantitative instrument and found that participants’ views about their own learning changed significantly during the program, such that they became more conceptual in their approaches to learning content and began to take responsibility for their own knowledge construction. These changes in learning views have been previously correlated with greater academic success. Second, we attempted to understand learning outcomes related to service-learning participation in a broader sense. This involved qualitative research methods. I found students developed their capacity for intellectual independence, evidenced by their greater understanding of science content, their increased awareness of metacognitive aspects of learning, and critical consideration of issues pertaining to schooling and society. Perspective of the learner as they approached the service-learning experience was important to the development of the learning outcomes. Implications for service-learning practice are discussed.