Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Undergraduate Student Diversity Paradigm Expansion: The Role of International Service Learning

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Undergraduate Student Diversity Paradigm Expansion: The Role of International Service Learning

Article excerpt

Opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in servicebased activities within their communities have grown tremendously. From 2009 to 2010, Campus Compact (2011) reported that students have completed more than 382 million service hours (Soria, Troisi & Stebleton, 2013). Service-learning is responsible for many of those service hours and has been described in a number of ways: pedagogy, a philosophy, a high-impact practice, a retention tool, and an experience pivotal to student learning and engagement (Deeley, 2010; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt, 2005; Mendel-Reyes, 1998; Tinto, 2012; Yeh, 2010). The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (2005) defines service-learning as, "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities." To meet this definition, students must participate in real-life activities that meet the needs of the larger community outside of the university which enables them to apply coursework and knowledge to real-world problems (Cashel, Goodman, & Swanson, 2003; McClain, Diambra, Burton, Fuss & Fudge, 2008).

A 1999-2000 survey of 324 universities and colleges found that 82% offered undergraduate and graduate courses with an associated service-learning curriculum (Moser & Rogers, 2005). The benefits of service-learning to student participants have been studied across academic disciplines including nursing (Calvillo, Clark, Ballantyne, Pacquiao, Purnell, & Villarruel, 2009), pharmacology (Coffey, Miller, Barnett, & Turberville-Vega, 2003), teacher education preparation (LaMaster, 2001), and social justice (Warren, 1998; Werner, Voce, Openshaw, & Simons, 2002). The benefits of service-learning activities have also been studied in many unique student populations: honors students (Stewart, 2008), low-income and first-generation students (Yeh, 2010), and first-year students (Stavrianopoulos, 2008).

Student participation in service-learning can yield many positive effects on measures including academic performance (GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills), values (commitment to activism and to promoting racial understanding), self-efficacy, leadership (leadership activities, self-rated leadership ability, interpersonal skills), choice of a service career, and plans to participate in service after college (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda & Yee, 2000; Yeh, 2010). Other benefits of student participation in servicelearning activities include increased attendance, further development of students' personal and social responsibility, and the feelings of belonging to a peer group and greater connection to the institution (Deeley, 2010; Kuh, et al., 2005; Soria et al., 2013; "What is Service-Learning," n.d.). The study also shows that Low-income and first-generation students, groups with greater risk of attrition than other student groups, demonstrate increased educational resiliency, increased feelings of personal meaning, and enhanced critical consciousness by engaging in service learning experiences (Yeh, 2010). Servicelearning also provides students the opportunity to face societal problems of ignorance, injustice, inequity and prejudices while enabling them to further expand their goals, values, and learning. It is also noted that there can be an increase in cultural competencies and adaptability (Aydlett, Randolph & Wells, 2010; Knuston & Gonzalez, 2009).

International service-learning integrates a targeted culture into a conventional service-learning experience (Tonkin & Quiroga, 2004). By immersing students into experiences that involve interacting with community residents while carrying out a project aimed at benefiting the community, students' sense of global community are enhanced and developed (Prins &Webster, 2010). Short-term international experiences enable students to step outside of their comfort zones and become aware of ideological identity both home and abroad. …

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