An interview study of community college student perspectives on service-learning
AbstractOver the past two decades, the community college in the United States has boasted a leadership role in the movement to make education community-based and performance-oriented. This has led to an intensification in attempts to search for more innovative means to make education more experiential and relevant to students' lived experiences. One such innovative program that holds promise to meet this challenge is service- learning. This paradigm attempts to relate the academic education in the classroom to community-based problems, which fits in neatly with the community-based characteristics of the community college. It promises to link ideas developed in the classroom and their practical application within the community through guided reflection. It is designed to enhance and enrich student learning of course material by combining citizenship, academic subjects, skills, and values. Though many studies have been carried out in regard to the outcomes of service-learning through quantitative means, relatively few qualitative studies are available, and those available have primarily studied traditional students at four-year residential colleges or universities. Therefore, there is an urgent need to study non-traditional students' perspectives at the community college level. The purpose of this study was to describe and explain the perspectives of five students at Broward Community College, Central Campus, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The following exploratory questions guided this study: 1. What elements constitute these students' perspectives? 2. What variables influence their perspectives? 3. What beliefs do these students hold about their service-learning experience which support or are contrary to their perspectives? This ethnographic interview study was conducted over a period of twelve months and consisted of three interviews for each of the five participants. The analysis of the data was conducted following the stringent principles of ethnographic research which included constant comparative analysis. The interviews were tape recorded with the participants' permission, transcribed verbatim, and organized into categories for in-depth understanding. Furthermore, these categories were developed from the data collected and an organizational scheme for understanding and interpreting of these perspectives emerged. The researcher, as well, kept a reflective journal of the research process as part of the data set. The results of this study show the need for a better grasp of the concepts of service-learning on the part of all involved with its implementation. In spite of this, all of the participants displayed gains to a greater or lesser degree in personal growth, academic skills, and citizenship skills.