Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Perceived Health Benefits of Community Service-Learning: Reminiscence Therapy's Impact on Novice Practitioners

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Perceived Health Benefits of Community Service-Learning: Reminiscence Therapy's Impact on Novice Practitioners

Article excerpt

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to determine the health-related impact service-learning interventions had upon university students.

Method

College students from The University of Toledo were trained to conduct five, one-hour, sessions of Transmissive Reminiscence Therapy (TRT) with non-institutionalized senior adults within their community. Another group of university students made five, one-hour, informal visits with non-institutionalized senior adults within their community. These groups were compared to a group of university students that did not carry out any form of service-learning. A sample of 89 university students completed the SF-36 health survey instrument at pretest and at posttest; 32 from the TRT group, 27 from the visitation group, and 30 from the control group.

Results

The analyses revealed significant positive change on 4 variables among students assigned to the therapy group, on 1 variable among students assigned to the visitation group, and on 2 variables among students assigned to the control group. Significant negative change was detected on 1 variable among students assigned to the visitation group, and on 1 variable among students assigned to the control group.

Conclusion

The TRT form of service-learning proved to be the more effective of the two interventions aimed at impacting student health perceptions in a positive way.

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At the elementary, secondary, and higher education levels, a greater emphasis is being placed on outcomes-based educational interventions today then in the past. Governments, professionals, theoreticians, communities, and citizens are demanding more from educational systems. They are insisting on curricula and coursework that have been 'proven' to be beneficial to student learners. Community service-learning courses are no exception, in that they are also being increasingly scrutinized and examined in order to establish their legitimacy (Miller, 1994). Community service-learning efforts have been evaluated using a variety of student-focused outcome measures including: assessments of the value of SL (Miller, 1994); beliefs, attitudes and values regarding SL and civic/social involvement (Kendrick, 1996; Miller, 1997; Moely, McFarland, Miron, Mercer, & Ilustre, 2002; Moely, Mercer, Ilustre, Miron, & McFarland, 2002; Payne, 2000; Root, Callahan, & Sepanski, 2002; Smith, 1994; Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000); relationships and reciprocity with others (Porter & Monard, 2001; Wade & Yarbrough, 1997); self-esteem (Osborne, Hammerich, & Hensley, 1998); self-efficacy and empowerment (Kendrick, 1996; Miller, 1997; Reeb, Katsuyama, Sammon, &Yoder, 1998; Wade &Yarbrough, 1997); cognitive performance (i.e., skill development, learning, etc.) (Eyler, 2000; Hesser, 1995; Litke, 2002; Osborne, Hammerich, & Hensley, 1998; Rockquemore & Schaffer, 2000; Root et al., 2002; Schmiede, 1995; Steinke & Buresh, 2002; Strage, 2000; Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000); race, gender and age-related perceptions and attitudes (Chesler & Scalera, 2000; Greene & Diehm, 1995; Myers-Lipton, 1996).

One area that has not been examined is the impact service-learning interventions have on the health or well-being of the ser vice-learner and/or those they serve. Do service-learning activities impact the perceived health status of students? Hudd et al. (2000) found that high stress levels among college students was inversely related to self-esteem and perceived health status. Would the added responsibility of becoming a service-learner result in worsening perceptions of their own health or would the service-learning experience actually promote a more positive perception of health? These researchers along with others (Couto, 2003; Zlotkowski, 2000) are calling for an expansion in the research base regarding the health related outcomes of university service-learning. …

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