Two-year college faculty members using service-learning
Smith, Marcy Lane
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The purpose of this study is to understand how two-year college faculty membersintegrate service-learning into their practice, with particular attention paid to the nature of facultyreflection about service-learning. Four research questions guided the study: First, whatmotivates faculty to participate in service-learning? Second, what is the process by whichfaculty members integrate service-learning into their practice? Third, what is the nature offaculty reflection surrounding service-learning? And fourth, what are faculty members’theoretical understandings of service-learning?This qualitative investigation involved interviews with twelve faculty members who areusing service-learning in courses at two-year technical or community colleges. Participantsrepresented a variety of academic and career or technical disciplines. Document analysis ofsyllabi and service-learning assignment sheets was also used as supporting evidence. Findings inthe study addressed each of the four research questions, and participants also gave inputregarding the role that service-learning plays in two-year colleges.Findings of the study suggest that faculty members are initially introduced to service-learning in a variety of ways, but are motivated to continue to participate in service-learning primarily by a belief that student learning, both academic and civic, is enhanced by participationin service-learning. Faculty members go through a similar process as they integrate service-learning into their practice, moving from a concern with logistics through a negotiation ofchallenges, and finally through reflection and evaluation, which leads to revision and furtherintegration of service-learning. Findings indicated that faculty members use informal reflection,particularly conversations with colleagues, more often than more formal methods, and that theirtheoretical understandings of service-learning are most often framed in terms of learning, ratherthan of service.Three conclusions were drawn: First, there is a five-step process through which facultymembers go as they integrate service-learning into their practice; this process includes theirinitial introduction to service-learning, as well as the process they have gone through as theybegin to use it. Second, faculty members frame both their practical and theoretical work withservice-learning in terms of learning. Third, faculty reflection about service-learning is mostoften informal and collaborative, and is an integral part of the integration process.