SERVICE LEARNING IN HONORS INTRODUCTORY PSYCHOLOGY
This presentation will describe the development and evaluation of a service learning component in Honors Introductory Psychology. The presentation will describe the steps involved in developing the service learning component, the assignments used to connect the service learning component to learning objectives, students’ perceptions of the service learning experience, and research evaluating the impact of service learning on exam scores and course evaluations. Service learning was a required component of one of two sections of the course. The service learning consisted of students (N=14) providing social support one hour a week for 10 weeks to residents at a local nursing home. Students had weekly writing assignments to reflect on their experiences at the nursing home and to relate these experiences to specific learning objectives in the course. They also had a final project requiring them to reflect on the service learning experience as a whole. One other section of the same course served as the comparison (nonservice learning). The nonservice learning section (N=15) completed alternative assignments (four papers) to equate the writing requirement. Exams for both sections were identical as were all other course components, including the instructor. At the end of the semester, students in both sections of the course completed the institution’s course evaluation forms. These evaluation forms were developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and are known as Student Instructional Reports II (SIR II). The SIR II summative report contains seven subscales: Course Planning and Organization, Communication, Faculty-Student Interaction, Grading, Learning Outcomes, Student Effort, and Overall Evaluation. In addition to the SIR II, students in the service learning section anonymously answered six questions concerning the service learning experience. Although both sections rated the course positively, results suggest that students in the service learning section were more satisfied with the course. According to the SIR II summative report, the service learning section’s means for Course Organization and Planning, Communication, and Overall Evaluation were significantly above the comparative means provided by ETS. The largest difference in ratings between the two sections was for Learning Outcomes. A pooled t test on the final exam scores for the two sections was not significant. The specific evaluation of the service learning component indicated that 100% of the students would recommend the service learning experience to other students. Frequently reported benefits of participating in the service learning experience included developing critical thinking skills through applying course material to a real-life situation, changing attitudes regarding the elderly, and the social interaction. These results suggest that service learning can heighten students’ perceptions of learning by connecting learning objectives to a real-world situation, even if the experience does not influence exam scores. The study is now being replicated to determine if results will be duplicated. Information gleaned from this research may be helpful in determining if service learning affects learning outcomes and student satisfaction in an honors introductory psychology class.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev