Service-Learning Evaluation Projects: A Step-by-Step Guide
Riley, Kevin, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Combining service-learning with an evaluation project offers maximum benefits to students and agencies alike.
As individuals prepare for their future as recreation management professionals, it is imperative that they receive opportunities to put theory into practice. Service-learning projects fulfill this need because they combine specific pedagogical goals with practical community service. Researchers have suggested that service-learning is a great teaching tool that can complement and enhance traditional learning methods, such as public speaking, reading, and writing (Clark, 2002; Kunstler, 2002). By participating in service-learning projects, students internalize the theories they have learned in courses, begin to think like professionals, and develop practical knowledge. Many recreation management programs across the nation have incorporated service-learning projects into courses to enhance the development of future recreation professionals.
In the recreation management program at Appalachian State University (ASU), service-learning projects have been implemented as part of the Evaluation of Recreation and Leisure Services course in order to provide students with opportunities to participate in the evaluation processes of local agencies. In rural North Carolina, many recreation practitioners and businesses lack the necessary resources to complete evaluation endeavors because they are overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded. However, the evaluation process of recreation services, programs, participants, and facilities still must be accomplished. To assist with this dilemma, undergraduate students from ASU have been offering their services to local recreation and leisure service providers for the past six years. This creates a service-learning environment that allows both groups to benefit. For example, local recreational agencies and businesses learn more about their clientele, programs, and policies, while ASU students learn by doing and make a better connection to evaluation theory. The purpose of this article is to provide a description of an ASU evaluation service-learning project and the step-by-step approach used to design the project, and to outline the benefits and challenges of implementing such a project.
ASU Evaluation Service-Learning Projects
In the evaluation course, students examine the methods, techniques, and application of evaluation in a variety of organizational functions that include clientele, programs, personnel, facilities, budgets, needs assessments, and economic impact estimations. Most of the evaluation projects that the students have completed for agencies have been very elementary; however, the quality of their efforts has caused many leisure service agencies to request additional evaluation projects after the first one. The evaluation projects are based on Henderson's (1995) trilogy of evaluation model, and on Rossman and Schlatter's (2000) program-planning model.
The trilogy divides an evaluation endeavor into three specific components: (1) the criteria, (2) the evidence, and (3) the judgment. The criteria component is the overall framework for the evaluation and is connected to the evaluation objectives. The evidence section addresses the project's design, development of the survey, type of data collected, and how the data will be analyzed. In the judgment section the evaluators provide to the agency their conclusions and recommendations based on the data gathered from the survey. Most students and novice practitioners find that analyzing data is challenging. However, the program-planning model focuses on simplicity and suggests that a good statistical analysis should organize data into a meaningful pattern that includes the following statistics: (1) distribution of scores (frequencies and percentage), (2) measures of central tendency (mean, mode, and median), and (3) measures of dispersion (standard deviation). …