/ Outcomes of Service-Learning in an Introduction to Sociology Course
Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Fall 1996, pp. 72-81 Outcomes of Service-Learning in an Introduction to Sociology Course J. Richard Kendrick, Jr. SUNY Cortland Although there is a considerable body of research on service-learning in secondary education, evidence is just now emerging to support the hypothesis that service--learning has positive effects on student development in higher education. This article contributes to this growing body of literature by exploring the effects of service--learning on students in an Introduction to Sociology course. It compares learning outcomes of students in two courses, one traditionally-taught and one with service-learning. Students in the service-learning course were found to show greater improvements in measures of social responsibility and personal efficacy, and they showed evidence of greater ability to apply course concepts to new situations, lending credence to the claims that service-learning has important benefits for students. This article compares service-learning with traditional classroom techniques as a method for teaching Introduction to Sociology. The question I address is, are there differences in learning outcomes between students who experience the service-learning approach and those who do not? In the courses that I compare, I find significant differences between the two groups. Students in servicelearning seemed to be better at applying course concepts to new situations, and they were more likely to report changes in attitudes toward a greater sense of social responsibility and personal efficacy. These findings hold even for a group of students which appeared less motivated than most, were participants in fairly large classes, and in which service-learning was minimally integrated with classroom experience. In referring to service-learning, I use the definition of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 which describes service-learning - learning by participation in a community-based social service agency - as an integrated experience in which the classroom and service are tightly coordinated so that students' service experiences are woven into the fabric of a complementary classroom experience. What students learn from participating with community agencies is incorporated into classroom learning, and classroom learning is applied by students to their service experiences (Cohen & Kinsey, 1994). Those who use this technique believe that it enhances student development. Research on experiential learning and service-learning among high school students supports this. For example, Conrad and Hedin (1982) found that experiential learning contributed to the social, psychological, and intellectual and academic development of students. Hamilton and Zeldin discovered that students who completed internships in government learned more and "demonstrated more positive attitudes toward community participation" (1987, p. 415). Hedin's (1989) review of the literature on service in secondary education concludes that it has positive effects on intellectual and socialpsychological development, social responsibility, attitudes toward others, self-esteem, knowledge of careers, moral and ego development, problemsolving skills, and higher level thinking. More recently, researchers have turned their attention to the effects of service-learning on college students (Batchelder & Root, 1994; Miller, 1994). Reports of service-learning outcomes have been published for courses in political science (Markus, Howard, & King, 1994), journalism (Cohen & Kinsey, 1994), and psychology (Bringle & Kremer, 1993; McClusky-Fawcett & Green, 1992; Miller, 1994). Two studies, at Vanderbilt University (Giles & Eyler, 1994) and Alma College (Batchelder & Root, 1994), analyzed student outcomes in a variety of service-learning courses at their respective institutions. In these studies, service-learning has been linked to improvements in grades, the ability to apply course concepts to new situations, motivation, social responsibility, and citizenship and civic involvement. Although service-learning is being used in a 72
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