Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Bonnie Sunstein

Abstract

Service-learning is the combination of traditional teaching methods with field-based learning and critical reflection (Hurd, 2008) and is popular in first-year composition (Deans, 2001). However, academic research on service-learning in first-year composition is relatively scarce and the most frequently-cited scholarship is at least a decade old (Adler-Kassner, Crooks & Watters, 1997; Deans, 2001; Haussamen, 1997). This study seeks to contribute to the scholarship on service-learning in first-year composition by exploring how stakeholders, including the instructor, the students, and the community partner, perceive the project's purposes and outcomes. To complete the service-learning requirement for the course in this study, students conduct a bystander intervention workshop for a small group of their peers that focuses on cultural humility and sexual assault prevention. In preparation for the service-learning project, students attend a bystander intervention training conducted by the [Women's Advocacy Program], a center on campus that specializes in violence prevention, LGBTQA rights advocacy, and promoting cultural humility on campus and in the surrounding community. In order to explore participants' experiences with the project, data was gathered through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and relevant artifacts, such as student work and course materials. In total, the study includes twenty-one participants, including the instructor, the community partner, and 19 students. Of the 19 students enrolled in the course, this research focuses on the experiences of five key informants (Bogdan & Bilken, 1997), who are referred to as “focal students” throughout the study. The findings of this study have implications for first-year composition instructors who engage in service-learning. Echoing previous research, this study finds that the relationship between the community partner and the instructor is an important factor in service-learning. Specifically, in this study, the instructor and the community partner design, implement, and assess the service-learning project collaboratively and have adapted the project over five semesters to ensure that it meets both their needs. The instructor and the community partner cite their collaboration as one of the reasons the project is successful. This study also reflects previous findings that indicate service-learning is more successful when it is integrated into the course curriculum. Students in this study feel that the project seems somewhat “separate” from the course, and perceive this lack of integration between the project and the course as one of the project's biggest weakness. A key finding of this study is that stakeholders in a service-learning project may not need to recognize or understand one another's perspectives about the project's purposes or outcomes in order for the the project to be successful. Previous research has suggested that service-learning projects are more likely to be successful if stakeholders understand one another's expectations for the project (Bringle, Clayton, & Hatcher, 2012; Deans, 2001), but this study suggests that this understanding might not be as essential to a service-learning project's success as previously thought. This study finds that participants perceive the project's purposes differently and have varying expectations about its outcomes. They make different and occasionally contradicting claims about which aspects of the project are effective or ineffective and they often indicate that they don't fully understand one another's perspectives on the project. Participants perceptions of the project are consistently divergent with one exception: they believe the instructor should continue teaching the project in future courses because they believe that the project is beneficial to their community, which suggests that participants don't need to understand one another's perspectives in order for the project to be successful.

Public Abstract

This study is a case study of a service-learning project in a first-year composition course. Service-learning is the combination of traditional teaching methods with field-based learning and critical reflection (Hurd, 2008) and is popular in first-year composition (Deans, 2001). However, academic research on service-learning in first-year composition is relatively scarce and the most frequently-cited scholarship is at least a decade old (Adler-Kassner, Crooks & Watters, 1997; Deans, 2001; Haussamen, 1997). This study seeks to contribute to scholarship on service-learning in first-year composition by exploring participants’ experiences with a service-learning project.

To complete the service-learning requirement for the course in this study, students conduct a bystander intervention workshop for a small group of their peers that focuses on cultural humility and sexual assault prevention. In preparation for the service-learning project, students attend a bystander intervention training conducted by the [Women’s Advocacy Program], a center on campus that specializes in violence prevention, LGBTQA rights advocacy, and promoting cultural humility on campus and in the surrounding community.

This study has implications for first-year composition instructors who engage in service-learning. It examines how specific aspects of the service-learning project, including course-integration and the relationship between the instructor and the community partner, affect project outcomes. It explores how students engage with language and concepts related to the project throughout the semester. Additionally, this study includes findings that are applicable to general service-learning scholarship. The study examines deviations in participants’ perceptions of the project and finds that participants don’t need to understand one another’s perspectives in order to consider the project successful.

Keywords

publicabstract, case study, first-year composition, pedagogy, service-learning

Pages

viii, 288

Bibliography

250-266

Copyright

Copyright 2016 Heather Draxl

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