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The fourfold purpose of this study was to determine if (1) student attitudes toward community service, (2) student attitudes toward civic involvement, (3) student attitudes about life skills, and (4) student attitudes toward civic engagement and service learning differed based on enrollment in a course with a service learning component or enrollment in a course without a service learning component. A related purpose for students enrolled in a course with a service learning component was to determine if the service learning component had an impact on students' future educational or career plans.

The study was conducted at Mesa Community College in Mesa. Arizona using two groups enrolled in an English 102 course: (1) 23 students (10 males and 13 females) with service learning. and (2) 16 students (8 males and 8 females) without service learning.

Research questions were answered using an academic course evaluation questionnaire. student life skills self-evaluation. a writing sample, and reflection papers (service learning only). Results indicated no differences between the students enrolled in the course with service learning and the students enrolled in the course without service learning on the perception of community service, civic involvement, life skills. and civic engagement. A statistically significant difference was determined with students' involvement in community service during Fall 2001 and prior to fall 2001 as well as with students' voting record.

Writing samples from students without service learning produced emerging themes of establishing responsibility. relationship to community. personal development, and college entrance. Writing samples from students with service learning produced emerging themes of involvement in community, career decisions, and personal development. Analysis of fourteen reflection papers revealed there was some impact of the service learning experience on their educational or career plans.

Consideration of the academic course for use of service learning is paramount. While there is value to service learning. this study revealed that using a content course such as English may not be the most appropriate for service learning. Alternatives for service learning opportunities include internships or professional/career-oriented courses to assure a specific connection of subject matter for the reflection process necessary in service learning.


Copyright © 2002 by Dana Lee Haines

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