Academic service-learning and the American college student
McCartney, Susan A.
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Academic service-learning is a complex pedagogy deployed at hundreds of American colleges and universities. Its learning objectives are ambitious. Ideally it bolsters course content learning, social justice understanding, and efficacy and motivation for civic engagement. This tall order is dependent on the class professor, college administrators, community partners, and the recipients of the intended service. My study seeks to understand to what degree these learning objectives are achieved. This dissertation captures the voice of the student. My research included 25 in-depth interviews of students attending one of two institutions: (i) a small, secular, formerly Catholic, suburban college that provides both liberal and professional studies, and (ii) a public comprehensive college with well over 10,000 students, offering 70 plus majors, and located in the heart of a northeastern American city. Furthermore, my study included participant observation, document analysis and conversations with administrators, professors, and scholars. The findings of this qualitative study revealed that academic service-learning can positively affect social justice understanding, yet it seldom enhances course content learning. Further, the findings suggest that the goals of civic engagement learning are often difficult to achieve. The study also highlights where lost opportunities for learning can occur.