Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Implementation and Impact of College Community Service and Its Effect on the Social Responsibility of Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Implementation and Impact of College Community Service and Its Effect on the Social Responsibility of Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt


The purpose of this project was to create a more effective approach to teaching about food-assistance agencies. Thirty-four students who were enrolled in a community nutrition course completed a program that integrated service in the community into an academic course. The results show that students' concern about world hunger and homelessness increased significantly after service learning. Their interest in contributing food and in volunteering to stop world hunger and homelessness also increased. Universities have unique opportunities to engage their students in service learning and to build community partnerships that are mutually beneficial, even when limited in intensity and duration.


The issue of declining American participation in community and civic activities is not a trivial one. In a study of factors contributing to stable and effective democratic institutions, Putnam (1995) found that civic engagement is essential to high-quality governance, social trust, and organized reciprocity.

From a programmatic perspective, there are two notable means through which universities support and promote community partnerships: (a) extracurricular and (b) curricular. A significant number of college students actively participate in extracurricular community service through student organizations, activities of student service offices, and campus-- based religious organizations (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996).

Academic programs can engage students in the community. Professional schools create a variety of experiential-learning opportunities for their students (e.g., internships, co-op programs, field experiences, and student teaching). However, the learning objectives of these activities typically focus on extending a student's professional skills and do not emphasize to the student, either explicitly or tacitly, the importance of service within the community and the lessons of civic responsibility. In addition, service learning expands course objectives to include civic education (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Jerrold, 1997).

Service learning is viewed as a credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and that reflects on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content and to gain a broader appreciation of the discipline, as well as an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Jerrold, 1997). A study by Markus, Howard, and King (1993) suggested that service connected to specific courses can enhance the learning of the course content, but what is not known is what students learn about themselves, about social problems, and about the role of volunteer participation in a democratic society. Giles and Eyler (1994) as well as Holland and Gelmon (1998) reported that students who provided community service as part of a course showed a significant increase in their beliefs that people can make a difference and that they should be involved as well as in their commitment to perform volunteer service the following semester. The researchers also found that students became less likely to blame social-service clients for their misfortunes and more likely to stress a need for equal opportunity.

Faculty members who use service learning discover that it brings new life to the classroom, enhances performance on traditional measures of learning, increases student interest in the subject, teaches new problem-solving skills, and makes teaching more enjoyable (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Greene, 1998; Hudson, 1996; Kendrick, 1996). Markus et al. (1993), using procedures that closely approximated a randomized control-group design, found that students in service-learning sections had higher academic achievement, more positive beliefs and values toward service and community, and more positive course evaluations.

Other research (Bringle & Kremer, 1993; Cohen & Kinsey, 1994; Forte, 1997) supports that service learning has a positive effect on personal, attitudinal, moral, social, and cognitive outcomes and helps build self-confidence. …

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