Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Effects of Course-Related Service Projects in a Child Development Course

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Effects of Course-Related Service Projects in a Child Development Course

Article excerpt

A Head Start volunteer project was designed for a college-level child development course and implemented in three different sections of the class across two semesters. Overall, 70 students participated (65 females and 5 males) with assessment data collected from student volunteers and Head Start teachers and administrators. Students reported a number of benefits from their participation, including hands on learning associated with course content, positive feelings about themselves for volunteering, and in some cases a better appreciation of early childhood education. Pre-activity and post-activity measures revealed significant changes in student attitudes toward the Head Start program and clients. In addition, all Head Start teachers and administrators were pleased with the positive impact the students had on their program and all expressed a strong desire to continue the project in the future.


The structure, evaluation, and funding level of Head Start has always been dependent upon a mixture of scientific evidence, public opinion, and changing governmental support (e.g., Chafel, 1992; Peters, 1980; Zigler & Muenchow, 1992). Both qualitative and quantitative evidence has been found to support the overall program, but evaluation and analysis is still ongoing (e.g., Ceglowski, 1998). Raikes (1998) lists and discusses more than a dozen major questions related to policy, funding, and effectiveness of subsidized and non-subsidized early childhood care. The answers to these questions are important for many groups, including parents, community members, and early childhood educators. In order to make us all better consumers of the current and future Head Start program, efforts should continue to provide individuals with a variety of experiences related to the program (e.g., Zigler, 1996).

One potential opportunity for personal experiences with various community programs is college and high school course-related volunteer work (e.g., Clements, 1995; Ferguson, 1994; Mettetal & De Bryant, 1996). Students and programs who participate in course-related volunteer projects receive many benefits, including application of classroom principles to enhance learning, increased student self-satisfaction, increased student desire to participate in future volunteer work, and enhanced student knowledge and attitudes about the development of persons from a variety of populations (e.g., Fox & Rotatori, 1986; Kretchmar, 2001; Raupp & Cohen, 1992; Serow, 1991).

The current activity was designed to take advantage of the benefits found in past studies of course-related volunteer work and to give students some personal experience with young children and the Head Start program. In addition, it was hoped that the teachers, administrators, and children associated with the Head Start program would benefit from having extra adults in the classroom.



An optional Head Start project was first introduced in one section of a child development course with 1 male and 16 female participants. The Head Start project was used again during the next semester in two sections of the child development course with 4 male and 49 female participants. Including all sections, 54% of the students were Psychology majors or minors, 32% of the students were Pre-Education majors, and the remaining 14% were distributed across various majors.


During the earlier semester the Head Start activity was a pilot project for a new and optional course activity. The activity was worth about 40% of the required paper/activity points, but students could easily obtain these points through other inclass and out-of-class activities. Before implementing the activity the first time the instructor met with and discussed numerous issues with the program administrator of the Northeast Missouri Community Action Agency and the head teacher of the local Head Start program. …

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