Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Impact of Service-Learning Pedagogy on Faculty Teaching and Learning

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Impact of Service-Learning Pedagogy on Faculty Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

While there has been a steady increase in the understanding of how service-learning affects students, there remains a dearth of research on how using service-learning pedagogy impacts faculty. In this research study six themes emerged that illuminate how using this innovative pedagogy shaped and influenced faculty members' understandings of, and approaches to, teaching and learning.


An abiding belief exists among innovators, researchers, and many others that faculty participation and commitment is critical to implementing and institutionalizing innovative forms of curricula and pedagogy (Bringle, Games, & Malloy, 1999; Checkoway, 2001; Fairweather, 1996; Finkelstein, Seal, & Schuster, 1998; Hall, 1991; Kuh, Schuh, & Whitt, 1991; Lee, 1967). Because of its direct connection to the curriculum and the teaching and learning process, service-learning is one such innovation that requires direct faculty involvement and support. Yet when called upon to implement innovations such as service-learning, many faculty are challenged by the knowledge, skills, support, or motivation needed to engage in this change (Bok, 1988). Moreover, these innovations often confront traditional pedagogical approaches.

To be sure, the primary measure of any effective pedagogy should be its impact on student learning. Although much has been learned about the impact of service-learning on students and student learning (Astin & Sax, 1998; Bringle et al., 1999; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Kendrick, 1996; Myers-Lipton, 1996; Rhoads, 1997; Rhoads & Howard, 1998; Schneider, 2000), there remains a dearth of studies exploring how participating in service-learning impacts faculty. Indeed, despite the obvious importance of faculty participation in service-learning pedagogy, scant research exists to inform understanding how implementation of this approach affects faculty teaching and learning. Driscoll (2000) noted that most of the existing research on service-learning and faculty has focused on how best to prepare faculty to teach using this approach. Moreover, she points out: "Studies of the impact of service-learning on faculty is a fertile research area with the potential to uncover more possibilities than we anticipate at this time" (p. 38). A better understanding of this concept sheds light on the role of service-learning as a strategy for creating and supporting conditions conducive to faculty growth and learning and for improving the quality of undergraduate education and the teaching and learning enterprise (Rice, 1996).

Does use of pedagogical innovations significantly change how faculty teach and learn? The purpose of this study was to describe and interpret how the implementation of service-learning pedagogy affects faculty. (1) Advancing understanding of the meanings and behaviors that faculty associate with using service-learning pedagogy most directly contributes to knowledge and understanding of the impact on faculty instructional approaches, which is the particular category of findings I report here.

What We Know about Impact on Faculty

Despite what is known about the positive effects of service-learning, its implementation and sustainability face significant barriers, including institutional culture and a lack of faculty involvement and preparation (Bowen & Schuster, 1986; Rubin, 1996; Ward, 1996, 1998). But while these barriers exist, many faculty on campuses across the country do implement service-learning, and much can be learned from them.

Are faculty who implement service-learning affected? Beyond informal data gathering or anecdotal reports, limited research is available on how engaging in service-learning pedagogy affects faculty. Heuristic models and scant research suggest that faculty and their teaching can be affected in various ways, including reconceptualizing classroom norms and roles, enhancing their understanding of student and community needs, and in some cases, expanding opportunities for their scholarship. …

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