June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.879.1 - 11.879.18
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  and Grinter  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 . 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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