/ Outcomes of Service-Learning in an Introduction to Sociology Course
Outcomes of Service-Learning in an Introduction to Sociology Course number of Sociology courses (Ender, Kowalewski, Cotter, Martin & DeFiore, 1996; HondagneuSotelo & Raskoff, 1994; Galura, 1993; Parker-- Gwin, 1996; Porter & Schwartz, 1993; Taub, 1991), there are no studies of outcomes in servicelearning courses in the discipline. The contribution of my study is to expand our knowledge of outcomes to Sociology and examine the effects of service-learning on predominantly first-year students in a relatively large course (at least by four-year liberal arts college standards). Methods The design is that of a natural experiment which compares two sections of the same course, Introduction to Sociology, at the State University of New York's College at Cortland. I taught both sections back to back in the Fall semester, 1994. The courses were as identical in content as I could make them, except that in one class I required 20 hours of service experience and in the other I did not. In order to make the workloads comparable, students in the non-service-learning section were assigned various articles from the weekday New York Times. My objectives for the service-learning and New York Times reading requirements were the same - to improve students' ability to identify and apply relevant course concepts to everyday experience. For example, when I introduced culture, I defined the concept, described components of culture (shared symbols, values, beliefs, norms), illustrated each component with examples, and invited students to do the same. I used service-learning and the Times reading to have students apply the concept to different contexts. Service-learning students were asked to analyze the cultures of their agencies, while the Times readers were asked to find examples of how culture is represented in the news. In addition, a reading of the research literature led me to hypothesize that service-learning would improve students' performance on knowledge content exams, knowledge application problems, and attitudes toward social responsibility and personal efficacy. The project is modeled after (although not identical to) a similar experiment conducted by Markus, Howard, and King (1993) in a political science course at the University of Michigan (hereinafter referred to as the Michigan study). Some measures of learning outcomes are also similar to those used by Giles and Eyler (1994) in their study of service-learning programs at Vanderbilt University (hereinafter referred to as the Vanderbilt study). Like Markus, Howard, and King, and Giles and Eyler, I examined the effect of service learning on a variety of learning outcomes, including student performance in the course, attitudes toward social responsibility and personal efficacy, and student evaluations of the course and their learning. Changes in social responsibility and personal efficacy were measured using the Social Responsibility Inventory (administered as a preand post-test) developed by Jeffrey Howard and Wilbert McKeachie. Student assessments of the course were made using the University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching questionnaire. Tables 1, 2, and 3 show the questions I used to assess students' attitudes toward social responsibility, personal efficacy, and course learning. There are three performance measures used in the class: percent of correct answers on four multiple choice examinations to measure understanding of core concepts, average of scores on two essay examinations to measure ability to apply course concepts, and a composite grade which combines multiple choice and essay scores with a participation grade based on attendance, completion of daily homework assignments, and extra credit. Extra credit was awarded in the servicelearning course for participation above the 20-hour minimum, and in the non-service-learning course for summarizing and presenting relevant New York Times articles which were not assigned in class. I made grading in the two courses as comparable as possible while differentiating between knowledge content and quality of thought in order to correct for two weaknesses of previous studies on service-learning. Miller (1994) pointed out that some service-learning studies which compare students' grades use two different methods to evaluate students - one method for the traditional classroom course (such as in-class exams and term papers), and another method for service-learning courses (like journal writing and papers which apply course concepts to the service experience).' Batchelder and Root (1994) have called for separating knowledge content (ability to define concepts and recall facts, for example) from quality of thought (like the ability to reason and solve problems). The use of multiple choice tests to measure knowledge content and essay questions to measure quality of thought is an attempt to differentiate between the two.2 Finally, I gathered background information on characteristics such as sex, age, race, high school GPA, SAT scores, class year in college, college GPA, and prior and contemporaneous experience as volunteers. These variables were selected to control for effects on learning outcomes of extraneous factors.3 73
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