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Learning Through Service: Analysis Of A First College Wide Service Learning Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD7 -- Service Learning

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.879.1 - 11.879.18



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Paper Authors


David Kazmer University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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David Kazmer is a Professor in the Department of Plastics Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Prior to this position, Dave held various individual contributor and management positions at GE Plastics and Synventive Molding Solutions. He teaches and researches in the area of product design and manufacturing.

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John Duffy University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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John Duffy is a Professor in the in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has an active interest in solar engineering and related technologies, which he has sought to implement through service-learning activities.

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Beverly Perna Tsongas Industrial History Center

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Dr. Beverly Perna is the Museum Education Specialist at the Tsongas Industrial History Center where she oversees the development of science programming related to the Industrial Revolution. She acquired her interest in engineering in her ten years on the education staff of the Boston Museum of Science and has turned that interest into a variety of teachers' workshops, including one that examines the Pemberton Mill collapse in Lawrence, MA.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Learning through Service: Analysis of a First Semester, College-Wide, Service-Learning Course

1. Abstract Service-learning is a pedagogy which strives to integrate student learning with community service. In an engineering context, service-learning provides a project-based experience in which students are confronted with real clients and problems, often of immediate need. In the context of course development, however, many engineering faculty seem to feel that service learning is infeasible in technical and/or large engineering courses, and that the overhead and opportunity costs associated with service learning exceed the benefits received by students.

This paper contemplates two years of service-learning integrated into a first engineering course with approximately three hundred students per year. The costs and benefits of service-learning to students, faculty, and clients are analyzed through several means including traditional teaching evaluations, blind pre- and post-assessments by students and clients, multi-year institutional data regarding student performance, and others. The results indicate that a majority of students personally believe that the described service-learning project is a valuable experience and should be integrated into engineering curriculum. However, the service-learning experience varied significantly between teams and students. Additional analysis and discussion indicates the underlying causality as well as significant impact on student motivation and success.

2. Introduction Engineering education seems to have come under increased criticism lately, with many companies and students arguing that engineering curricula are too abstract and disconnected [1, 2]. It is interesting to reflect upon similar concerns of Henderson [3] and Grinter [4] dating back to 1983 and even 1955. These studies consistently indicate that engineering education should have the following properties: 1. Relevance to the lives and careers of students, preparing them for a broad range of careers, as well as for lifelong learning involving both formal programs and hands-on experience; 2. Attractiveness so that the excitement and intellectual content of engineering will attract highly talented students with a wider variety of backgrounds and career interests — particularly women, underrepresented minorities and the disabled — and will empower them to succeed; and 3. Connectedness to the needs and issues of the broader community through integrated activities with other parts of the educational system, industry and government.

One possible approach to providing relevance, attractiveness, and connectedness is service- learning. Service-learning is the integration of academic subject matter with service to the community in credit-bearing courses, with key elements including reciprocity, reflection, coaching, community voice in projects [5]. Service-learning has been shown to be effective in a large number of cognitive and affective measures, including critical thinking and tolerance for diversity, and leads to better knowledge of course subject matter, cooperative learning,

Kazmer, D., & Duffy, J., & Perna, B. (2006, June), Learning Through Service: Analysis Of A First College Wide Service Learning Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--467

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