This study attempted to answer the question of whether participation in a high school service learning program can be linked to increases in measures of self-esteem in students. Proponents of service learning claim that it is a valuable means of engaging students, increasing comprehension, and fostering citizenship, but the positive psychological effects are often overlooked.
The Rosenberg (1965) Self-Esteem Scale was used to measure self-esteem levels. Personal interviews were also conducted and coded categorically into scales for self-values of competence, self-determination, personal unity, and moral worth. This coding was done according to a framework created by Gordon (1982). The results were then compared cross-sectionally between the newest cohort of students at the Eagle Rock School and those students who had been at the school the longest.
A positive correlation was found to exist between higher measures of self-esteem and the length of a student's participation in a residential high school's service learning program. Gender differences in self-esteem measures are discussed. In addition, evidence of the self-reported value changes in veteran students is used to support the self-esteem data.
A review of relevant literature on the topics of adolescent identity, self-concept theory, and service learning pedagogy will be discussed as a foundation for the research conducted. Erikson's (1950) theory of the adolescent identity crisis within the eight stages of development across the life span is discussed with regards to self-concept and self-esteem development and its possible support of service learning ideologies. Conclusions are drawn that combine the ideas presented in the literature review and the results of the empirical study. Suggestions for further research are made.
Foster, Sarah, "Self Service: Self-Concept Enhancement in High School Students in a Service Learning Program" (1999). Dissertation and Thesis. 59.
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