Service-Learning in Nursing Education: Its Impact on Leadership and Social Justice

Article excerpt

Abstract Although studies suggest that service-learning is positive for students, findings reported are primarily qualitative. A convenience sample of 306 senior-level nursing students completed the Service-Learning Self-Evaluation Tool (SLSET) pre- and post- service-learning experience over a six-year span. The constructs measured were leadership skills and social justice. Paired t-tests were calculated. Statistically significant differences were noted between pre- and post-service-learning experience, with students rating themselves higher on leadership and social justice items after the experience. Cronbach's alpha for leadership and social justice were greater than 0.80. Service-learning as an educational methodology that combines community service with academic learning objectives is a viable strategy for facilitating leadership skills and increased awareness of social justice issues in nursing students.

Key Words Service Learning--Leadership--Social Justice--Service-Learning Self-Evaluation

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FROM 1903, WHEN THE COOPERATIVE EDUCATION MOVEMENT WAS FOUNDED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI, THE MEANING OF SERVICE IN EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES EXPANDED CONSISTENTLY, WITH A GROWING FOCUS ON THE LINK BETWEEN SERVICE AND LEARNING. Through the mid-1960s, many of the service programs offered focused on the role of service in improving the nation as well as revitalizing the economy. Examples are the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Civilian Conservation Corps, Work Projects Administration, Peace Corps, and VISTA.

The concept of service morphed into service-learning in 1966-1967 when the phrase was used to describe a funded project in East Tennessee with Oak Ridge Associated Universities, linking students and faculty with area development organizations. Although the linking of service and learning persisted during the 1970s, most service-learning opportunities took place within the context of youth corps and/or volunteer work. This changed in the early 1980s when national efforts (along with federal monies) helped mobilize service programs in institutions of higher education. This effort resulted in various college-based opportunities for interested students, such as AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National Service.

Although service-learning (SL) has been a part of campus life for at least 25 years, SL experiences were not typically linked to specific courses, nor were they integrated into the curriculum of higher education until more recently. Evidence suggests that service-learning as an adjunct to traditional pedagogical methods (e.g., lecture, readings) is gaining momentum and has been implemented across a variety of disciplines and academic settings (National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2009).

Service-learning is defined as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities" (National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2009). It is not a course or a discipline, but rather a method of teaching that engages students in hands-on activities. It empowers students by making them responsible in a real-world context while giving them the support, encouragement, information, and skills to be effective (Rosenberg, 2000). Furthermore, SL fosters the development of skills and knowledge needed for participation in public life (Forman & Wilkinson, 1997).

Service-Learning in Nursing Curricula In recent years, SL has been implemented in a number of nursing curricula. Numerous articles have been published discussing the process of integrating SL into the nursing curriculum and the clinical challenges encountered (Hales, 1997; Hamner, Wilder, & Byrd, 2007; Kulewicz, 2001; Rimer, Schlumberger, Straughn, & Womack, 1998; Scheideberg, 1999; Siber, 1999; White & Henry, 1999). Other articles have focused on its use as a tool for developing cultural awareness (Worrell-Carlisle, 2005); social responsibility (Kelley, Connor, Kun, & Salmon, 2008); social justice (Redman & Clark, 2002); and role preparation (Mayne & Glascoff, 2002). …