Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Factors That Motivate and Deter Faculty Use of Service-Learning

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Factors That Motivate and Deter Faculty Use of Service-Learning

Article excerpt

Context and Background

A teaching strategy that depends on reciprocal university-community partnerships, service-learning provides an innovative pedagogical approach to realizing higher education's civic responsibilities (Bringle, Games, & Malloy, 1999; Bringle, Hatcher, & Games, 1997). Despite increased attention to its benefits, service-learning is not thoroughly integrated into the curriculum at most colleges and universities (Bringle & Hatcher, 2000; Holland, 1997). Lack of integration is often considered a result of minimal institutional commitment to service-learning (Bringle & Hatcher; Holland, 1997; Morton & Troppe, 1996), including scarce administrative support, faculty participation, and funding (Ward, 1996).

Of these elements necessary to institutionalize service-learning, achieving substantial faculty participation has been cited as the most important and greatest challenge (Ward, 1998). Support of faculty is fundamental because implementing service-learning is a curricular decision, and thus within faculty's purview (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995). For service-learning to be institutionalized, faculty recruitment must be followed by efforts to sustain involvement (Bringle & Hatcher, 2000). It is therefore necessary to understand faculty motivation for using service-learning, a research area where critical questions remain (Driscoll, 2000; Giles & Eyler, 1998). The purpose of this research was to describe the factors that motivate and deter faculty use of service-learning--both for faculty who do and do not integrate service-learning into their teaching. For these two faculty groups, we described the factors according to institution type, academic discipline, faculty rank, tenure status, and gender.

Factors Motivating Faculty Participation In Service-Learning

Little research has been conducted regarding faculty members' motivation to incorporate service-learning into their courses. Hammond (1994) studied the motivations of 130 faculty at 23 institutions who incorporated service-learning into their teaching. She found that the most influential factors were related to student course-based learning, including relevance to course materials, self-direction, and improved student satisfaction with education. On the whole, these course-based considerations were more influential than personal factors, such as personal involvement in service and enjoyment of working with students in co-curricular settings, or student co-curricular factors related to civic involvement or development of moral character.

Hammond's findings are consistent with research suggesting that faculty value service-learning to improve student learning outcomes, such as improving analytical skills and problem solving skills. Hesser (1995) found that more faculty members are embracing service-learning because they value active modes of learning and experiential education. Similarly, Bringle et al. (1997) suggested that although service-learning's early adopters ("first-generation faculty") were predominately risk-taking "visionary instructors" willing to experiment on limited resources with service-learning's possibilities, current faculty ("second-generation faculty") are less idealistic and more focused on service-learning's concrete outcomes.

Additional influences on the decision to adopt service-learning are institutional and professional considerations. Limited research suggests that faculty involvement in service-learning is more likely to occur if efforts to integrate service-learning into the curriculum are a faculty-led initiative (Morton & Troppe, 1996; Ward, 1996). Faculty adopt and sustain service-learning when they see respected colleagues actively participate (Gelmon, Holland, Shinnamon, & Morris, 1998; UCLA Service-Learning Clearinghouse Project, 1999), and the strength of service-learning programs often depends on the extent of faculty support (Gray, Ondaatje, & Zacaras, 1999). …

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