Academic journal article Education

An Empirical Assessment of Self-Esteem Enhancement in a High School Challenge Service-Learning Program

Academic journal article Education

An Empirical Assessment of Self-Esteem Enhancement in a High School Challenge Service-Learning Program

Article excerpt

Service learning has been an innovative approach to improve school practice across the nation (e.g., Conrad & Hedin, 1989; Crossman, 1989; Krug, 1991; Patterson, 1987). Following the former President George Bush who signed the National Community Service Act in 1990, President Clinton endorsed the National Community Service Trust Act in 1994 (Zoophonics News, 1996). In response to the federal initiative, the California Department of Education supported the Children and Adults Living, Learning, Nurturing and Growing through Experience (CHALLENGE), a K - 12 service-learning program at Delano, California.

Despite many service-learning programs in practice, Middleton (1993) reported that the empirical assessment of their effectiveness was sparse in the existing research literature. In part, this was because service-learning was integrated in a variety of school-based projects at various grade levels. Thus, it was difficult to identify a common indicator to measure the effectiveness.

While specific measurement of student achievement varied across school grades and programs, several self-esteem indicators proposed by Coppersmith (1967)could be employed to reflect general academic performance (Table 1). Because the self-esteem assessment was not strictly confined by students' grades and the individual programs, the purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the CHALLENGE program in terms of enhancement of student self-esteem. It is expected that this general approach of self-esteem assessment can be employed to evaluate similar service learning programs at other locations.

Table 1
Coppersmith's School-Academic Subscale

number(*)             Content

7           I find it very hard to talk
              in front: of the class             -- Agree Disagree
14          I'm proud of my school work          -- Agree Disagree
21          I'm doing the best work that I can   -- Agree Disagree
28          I like to be called in class         -- Agree Disagree
35          I'm not doing well in
              school as I'd like to              -- Agree Disagree
42          I often feel upset in school         -- Agree Disagree
49          My teacher makes me
              feel I'm not good enough           -- Agree Disagree
56          I often get discouraged in school    -- Agree Disagree

(*) The item numbers correspond to the numbers used in Coopersmith Self-Esteem Invento-


The CHALLENGE program coordinated several service-learning projects at the Delano unified elementary and secondary school districts in California. The elementary school students were split into treatment and control groups according to their involvement in a greenhouse construction project. At the high school level, two experimental groups were characterized by Zoophonics tutoring and student service to the Delano Historical Society, respectively.

A common feature shared by these three experimental groups was the integration of community service in academic curriculum. For instance, the Zoophonics tutoring began with student training in Zoo-phonics and child development in a 10th grade class. The tutoring was further supported by resources at a local elementary school, including elementary school teachers' consulting service on how to fulfill their positions as role models for the younger kids. As a result, the service-learning strategy has reduced disciplinary problems and improved academic performance in the 10th grade class. According to a report in the Zoo-Phonics News (1996, Spring),

   The high-schoolers are shining as Zoo-phonics tutors. They have a reason to
   enjoy and a recipe for personal success. They are realizing their worth as
   role models and consistently prove that young people are "viable resources"
   who can "contribute to their community." The elementary students are
   learning and developing rapidly with Zoo-phonics. … 
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