Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Transformations in Graduate Education Majors' Relational Care in a Service-Learning Writing Course

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Transformations in Graduate Education Majors' Relational Care in a Service-Learning Writing Course

Article excerpt

"Listen with your heart. But, remember listening with your heart sometimes means you cannot sleep at night because you are worded about your students" (Education majors' e-mail reflection following 7thth week of service-learning tutoring)

"I honestly feel like I'm making a difference in these students' lives. The most difficult aspect of this opportunity will be the end of the semester, and realizing we won't see these students anymore. This service-learning course has made me realize even though my ultimate reason for wanting to be a teacher is to help students, at the same time, the students helped me become a better person. (Education majors' e-mail reflection following 10thth week of service-learning tutoring)

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Scholars note service-learning has the potential to enhance education majors' appreciation and respect for the vast knowledge and capabilities students of color and those from diverse cultures and circumstances bring with them to the classroom (Cipolle, 2010; Eyler & Giles, 1999). Moreover, critical reflection attached to service-learning courses increases education majors' "quality of learning and strengthens the long-term impact of service-learning experiences" (Cipolle, 2010, p. 71). However, notwithstanding these positive statements, for almost two decades, "service-learning educators have voiced their concerns about the need to develop a more systematic and rigorous research process and agenda to better understand, improve, and substantiate the theory, practice, and value of service-learning in ... higher education" (Kiely, 2005, p. 5). For example, although a growing body of service-learning research exists, one distinct omission is that limited studies have focused on transformations in education majors' professional dispositions (i.e., beliefs, attitudes, and actions) as they teach in conjunction with a service-learning course. Yet, it is well known education majors' professional dispositions will significantly impact their future students' performance (Schulte, Ediek, Edwards, & Mackiel, 2004). Moreover, teachers' care is especially relevant to culturally responsive teaching (Gay, 2000).

Funded by a University Faculty/Community Partnership Grant, in this semester-long, phenomenological ease study I investigated graduate education majors' development of relational care (i.e., dispositions of concern, sensitivity, attention, and commitment to students and their needs) as they engaged in service-learning tutoring connected to a required writing methods course. I wanted to discover how working over time with learners from diverse circumstances might impact the education majors' dedication toward their students. I also hoped to determine how I might better prepare future education majors to consider teacher care and concern as the major cornerstone of culturally responsive teaching and the teaching profession in general (Gay, 2000). Moreover, I wanted to add essential information to the body of literature on service-learning.

Background Information Pertinent to the Study

The Education Majors

Twenty-eight graduate education majors (4 males/24 females) in a three semester-hour required writing course collaborated in small groups for 14 weeks to plan and offer research-based writing instruction to culturally and ethnically diverse students. Twenty- seven of the education majors (ages 24-36) were Caucasian. One woman was African-American. All were from middle socioeconomic milieus. The service-learning component of the writing course offered the education majors their first opportunity to work directly with students. The education majors held undergraduate degrees in varied disciplines, such as business, nursing, psychology, and physical therapy and many had worked in these professions. In addition, one education major had retired from the air force; another was a previous restaurant owner, and one was a former wedding consultant. …

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