College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Radner

Second Advisor

Dr. Gayle Mindes

Third Advisor

Nyguen Trung Hieu

Abstract

The purpose of this research study was to examine if students who participated in curricular service learning projects guided by a teacher would have significantly more positive attitudes about learning than those students who did service learning without the guidance of a teacher (community service)? A service learning project is generally defined as a thoughtfully organized community service experience than enhances what teachers have chosen as the objectives, standards and curriculum in their classrooms. Service learning projects focus on providing students with the opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes that can be applied to real-life situations. The sample for this study consisted of students who had participated in either service learning or community service projects. The sample also consisted of teachers who had implemented a service learning project with their students. The students and teachers came from an urban public high school in Chicago in which students are required to complete forty hours of service learning in order to graduate. This research study incorporated both quantitative and qualitative methods and data analysis. The annual Service Learning Survey administered by the sample high school was analyzed using t-Tests while also comparing percentages between the responses to the survey from the two groups of one hundred and thirty four students – forty nine self-identified service learning students and eighty five self-identified community service students. Focus groups were conducted in order to have a more in-depth and holistic analysis of the experiences of the students. There were three focus iii group sessions: ten students who did service learning, ten students who did community service, and ten teachers who implemented a service learning project with their students. The systematic analysis of the data from the focus groups included an inferential content analysis of the responses based on the dimensions of the attitudes towards learning as identified in the framework of the research study. The analysis of the quantitative data collected showed that the percentage of students answering strongly agree or agree was considerably higher with the service learning students than with the community service students. Overall, thirteen of the eighteen questions had service learning students answering more positively than the community service students. With the t-Tests, although there was no statistically significant difference when analyzing strongly agree and agree answers, there was a statistical difference for the service learning students on three questions when analyzing agree answers only. The inferential content analysis of the qualitative data from the student and teacher focus groups suggested that the students who did service learning had more positive attitudes toward their learning than the students who did community service.

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