Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Developing a Faculty Inventory Measuring Perceived Service-Learning Benefits and Barriers

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Developing a Faculty Inventory Measuring Perceived Service-Learning Benefits and Barriers

Article excerpt

Despite the extensive research regarding student involvement with service-learning (SL), there is limited research in the area of faculty participation with this pedagogical approach. Studies have shown student benefits through reciprocal community-campus partnerships that offer an innovative pedagogical approach to engage student learning, strengthen openness to diversity, and encourage civic responsibility (Bringle, Hatcher, & Games, 1997; Butin, 2006). To encourage faculty service-learning involvement, it is necessary to have a better understanding and assessment of the benefits and barriers perceived by faculty.

Currently, there is limited information about faculty involvement and use of the service-learning approach. One of the principal sources of information is the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE, 2007). This survey is a project coordinated by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at Indiana University and is designed to assess faculty member's expectations of student engagement in those educational practices empirically associated with high degrees of student learning and advancement (NSSE, 2009). Although the FSSE includes questions about service activities, internships, and community involvement, it does not explicitly examine faculty perceptions toward the integration of service-learning into their teaching.

While limited research exists about faculty perceptions of SL, existing studies have pointed to some general motivating factors. Abes, Jackson, and Jones (2002) examined factors motivating and deterring faculty use of service-learning among 500 faculty members from 29 higher education institutions affiliated with Ohio Campus Compact. They identified five factors most strongly motivating the use of service-learning, including increased student understanding of course material, increased student personal development, increased student understanding of social problems as systemic, provision of useful service in the community, and creation of university-community partnerships. Another study surveyed project directors of 66 institutions of higher education participating in the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education / Generations Together grants, and discovered similar perceived benefits (Bulot & Johnson, 2006). Salient motivating factors were the greater relevance of course material with the service-learning approach as well as the enhanced connections among faculty, community, and students. In addition, increased awareness of community issues, opportunities to develop closer working relationships with communities, improved student learning outcomes, and more meaningful engagement and commitment to teaching have been identified as faculty-perceived benefits of such pedagogy (Bulot & Johnson; Hammond, 1994; Pribbenow, 2005).

Research has been limited regarding barriers faculty encounter when integrating service-learning into instruction. Some common challenges reported include time constraints leading to difficulty balancing professional responsibilities and coordination of the service component, challenges of adjusting for different levels of student readiness, and challenges in assessing student work (Abes et al., 2002; Hammond, 1994). Other barriers include logistical challenges, insufficient relationships with community partners, or inadequate knowledge of ways to use the SL approach effectively (Bulot & Johnson, 2006; Driscoll, 2000; Hammond). Finally, the lack of institutional recognition of service-learning as scholarship has been recognized as an important issue that needs to be further examined (Hammond; Morton & Troppe, 1996).

Although existing studies have pointed to some general factors encouraging or discouraging faculty SL participation, currently there is no systematically developed measurement tool available to examine factors influencing faculty SL participation. While some belief or perception scales are being used (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), 2001; Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Faculty Fellows Survey, 2007; Loyola University Office of Service Learning Faculty Post-Survey, 2004; Shinnamon, Gelmon, & Holland, 1999), the psychometrics of these scales are often not available. …

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