Integrating Service-Learning Pedagogy Into Community College Coursework: A Phenomenological Study

Integrating Service-Learning Pedagogy Into Community College Coursework: A Phenomenological Study

Timothy Leonard (Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA) and Patrick J. Flink (Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJITLHE.2020010103
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Developmental students face significant academic and life challenges as they pursue a college degree. As students in developmental studies often struggle to complete their courses, research focused on innovative pedagogy that engages students while developing skills is needed. This project sought to investigate implementing an on-campus, service-learning (SL) component into developmental reading courses. Students participated in SL by reading to children at the on-campus Early Childhood Center (ECC) one time per week, during scheduled class, with time provided for structured metacognition through reflective journals. A phenomenological approach was used for this study, and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to examine responses and note trends in data. It was found that students who participated in SL as part of their developmental reading course reported multiple positive effects such as developing a positive academic mindset, improving self-efficacy, and increasing motivation to read.
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In recent years, developmental education at the community college level has come under scrutiny, and there is a growing concern that traditional models of instruction contribute to the challenges students face in these programs (Weisburst, Daugherty, Miller, Martorell, & Cossairt, 2017). At community colleges, there are often significantly low retention and graduation rates and these rates are even lower for students who are placed into developmental education coursework (Hodara & Smith-Jaggars, 2014). As students in developmental studies often struggle with course completion, research focused on engaging and innovative pedagogy that develops academic skills is needed. Colleges have been developing innovative ways to reform developmental education, including models such as augmented coursework, learning communities, accelerated or compressed learning, and adding tutoring and other college resources (Weisburst et al., 2017). These models aim to increase student retention and success rates; yet, many students still face obstacles both inside the classroom and within their lives outside college. Since developmental education attempts to address the academic, social, and psychological needs of a unique student population, service-learning (SL) is one approach that may positively affect student retention and academic achievement. SL may also address the diverse educational, social, and career needs of developmental students, while providing services to the local community, and building college and community relations. Students who are enrolled in developmental courses within community colleges are an at-risk population in need of support through purposeful pedagogy (Prentice, 2009). As developmental education evolves through the implementation of innovative pedagogy, such as with SL integration, it is important to maximize the educational experiences and outcomes for these students.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of implementing SL into developmental reading courses at the community college level. A phenomenological approach was used with reflective journaling as the data source for this study. Reflective journaling was used as a structured method of ensuring that SL activities connected to the academic outcomes, while exploring students’ perspectives and experiences during SL participation. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used as the data analysis method. Research pertaining to innovative methodologies for developmental education is still growing (Weisburst et al., 2017), and this study aims to add to that growing body of literature.

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