Explaining community college faculty members' use of service learning in their teaching
Brumfield, Sean Andrew
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One challenge of institutionalizing service learning in community colleges is understanding the factors that affect a faculty member’s decision to use the pedagogy. This quantitative study used a 71-item survey instrument to explain community college faculty members’ use of service learning in their teaching. The survey was centered on three theoretical constructs: “support” and “benefits” of service learning and “barriers” to the use of service learning. The survey was designed to answer the following research questions: (1) What factors serve as support to faculty members’ use of service learning; (2) What are the perceived benefits of service learning to faculty members; (3) What factors serve as barriers to faculty members’ use of service learning; (4) To what extent do these three variables (support, benefits, barriers) explain faculty members’ use of service learning; and (5) To what extent do institutional and personal characteristics explain faculty members’ use of service learning? Using Survey Monkey, email invitations to participate were sent to 235 community college faculty members. The 142 completed surveys resulted in a 60.4% response rate. The findings of this study showed that “barriers” can be used to explain 13.5% of the observed variance and “years of teaching experience” can be used to explain 6.2% of the observed variance in community college faculty members’ “extent of use of service learning.” The highest ranked “support” items include support from key personnel internal and external to the college; the lowest ranked include tangible programmatic support items. The highest ranked “benefit” items include those that benefit the school, the community, and the student; the lowest ranked include those related to the faculty member. The highest ranked “barrier” items include those that deal with resources; the lowest ranked include those that deal with attitudes. Three major conclusions are drawn from this study. The first is that Survey Monkey is an inexpensive yet highly effective online data-gathering tool. The second and third major conclusions indicate that community college leaders can increase the number of service learning opportunities for students if they employ a service learning coordinator and if they target faculty development efforts toward senior faculty members.