10 SES 03 A, Reflexivity, Engagement and Becoming a Teacher
This paper presents findings from a study of a service learning program for undergraduate students in teacher education. Service learning is a growing trend around the world, most notably for the opportunities to embed students in real-world contexts that are rich with diversity. Never has this been more important in Europe, with the changing classroom dynamics from migration and other issues creating a dynamic context that is difficult to understand within the walls of a university classroom. Service learning puts the preservice teacher in the heart of the action, and provides opportunity to encounter diversity, first-hand, within a structure that is mindful of social justice and inclusion. The program investigated here was designed to enhance post-secondary learning for preservice teachers while also serving community-identified needs. Details of the program are described, followed by the theoretical framework of Socially Empowered Learning, a new model for student engagement. The empirical study presents findings that support the proposition that service learning programs are an effective form of Socially Empowered Learning.
Student engagement is critical in undergraduate education as it facilitates development of cognitive and affective foundations for academic success (Krause and Coates 2008; Kuh et al. 2005). Unfortunately, PISA and other global metrics for engagement find levels of student engagement to be low around the world. Socially Empowered Learning is a possible intervention for low student engagement, and is defined as group-based, creative and agency-rich opportunities that connect to the real-world and make a positive social impact (Martin, 2014). This theoretical framework unites three streams of psychology to provide an empirically tested, causal model for student engagement based on collective efficacy, group potency, and shared agency (Bandura, 2006; Guzzo et al., 1993; Martin, 2018).
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not being part of the service learning program caused students to feel both empowered, and, consequently, authentically engaged. As such, the research questions are: Does participation in the service learning program increase social empowerment? Further, based on the group reflection processes and community-engaged design of the service learning program, is service learning an effective form of Socially Empowered Learning?
Findings indicate that the service learning program investigated here led to a significant increase in group potency, collective efficacy and overall social empowerment. Implications for teacher education are explored in addition to recommendations for future research and practice.
This paper addresses the research questions through an investigation of the service learning program through the lens of Socially Empowered Learning. First, I provide an explanation of the theoretical framework on student empowerment through creative, social action. Next, I describe the design of the program under investigation, followed by a description of the research study. Last, findings on the are shared, with implications for theory, future research, and practice specific to a European context.
Survey data were gathered on two groups with pre- and post-term on-line surveys at the beginning and end of each term during which students were enrolled in the program. The sample consisted of 80 undergraduate participants in two groups: Service Learning students and non-service learning students serving as a control group. All participants were registered in the same program at a large university. All participants completed a 36-item survey using an on-line survey link provided by the research coordinator. A series of demographic items were followed by measures of social empowerment based on Martin’s (2018) 18 item summary scale of three scales: collective efficacy, group potency, and shared agency. Collective efficacy was measured using the guidelines provided for measurement by Bandura (2006). Group potency was measured using a modified form of Guzzo, et al.’s (1993) group potency measure. Shared agency was measured using a new scale. Responses to all of the items were made on a five-point Likert-type scale. For analysis, an evaluation of baseline performance was conducted on the measures of collective efficacy, group potency, shared agency, and social empowerment. Then, four independent sample t-tests were conducted to examine whether significant differences occurred after the program. To counteract the inflation of Type I error, significance criteria interpretations were amended using the Bonferroni correction. The obtained data were examined to determine whether the underlying assumptions of the proposed statistical techniques could be inferred and warrant their use. This included the evaluation of univariate and multivariate normality at the individual item and total score levels for all instruments included in the study. No outliers were identified within the obtained sample. The total score for all factors examined in this study demonstrated acceptable central tendency, skew and kurtosis properties and warranted the use of parametric approaches. Frequency analyses were performed to examine the percentage of missing values found within the obtained data. The results of this evaluation indicated that missing data was minimal and constituted less than 5% of the obtained sample. The overall pattern of missing data appeared mostly random, with no specific logic to the exclusion of information.
Enrollment in the service learning program demonstrated a statistically significant change in collective efficacy (t(60) = -2.11, p < .05), group potency (t(60) = -2.90, p < .05), and the composite of social empowerment (t(60) = -2.34, p < .05). Results for shared agency were not significant. Finding increased levels of collective efficacy supports the theoretical design of the program as a means of facilitating the group-level benefits attributed to collective service on behalf of others, as Bandura and others proposed. In serving others to meet authentic needs in the community, participants perceived that their collective capabilities could and did make a difference in the world. Theoretically, the increase in collective efficacy signals a potential increase in self-efficacy. The finding on group potency suggests that there are benefits to participating in the co-curricular program that go beyond service learning, since this construct is not task specific. This signals that service learning has a power to create a group effect beyond the program, with potential benefits that may manifest elsewhere. Findings here suggest that participants have a greater confidence in their abilities together. The finding on shared agency was not significant, and this is discussed in the paper, including theoretical implications for Socially Empowered Learning. The results for social empowerment help answer the second question of the study, which asks if service learning is an effective form of Socially Empowered Learning? The statistically significant increase in social empowerment supports an answer of yes, with the caveat that a larger sample size would be required to generalize this to all service learners. Findings here support the proposition that service learning is indeed an effective form of Socially Empowered Learning. This also suggests that service learning is a powerful mechanism for engaging undergraduate students in their post-secondary education.
Bandura, Albert, 2006. “Guide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales.” In Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents, edited by Frank Pajares and Tim Urdan, (5)307–337. Greenwich: Information Age Publishing. Calvert, Victoria. 2011. “Service Learning to Social Entrepreneurship: A Continuum of Action Learning.” Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice 11(2):118. Collins, Denise, and Aaron Einfeld. 2008. “The Relationships Between Service-Learning, Social Justice, Multicultural Competence, and Civic Engagement.” Journal of College Student Development 49(2):95–109. Dorado, Silvia, and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. 2004. “Service-Learning Partnerships: Paths of Engagement.” Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning 11(1):25–37. Fredericksen, Patricia J. 2000. “Does Service Learning Make a Difference in Student Performance?” Journal of Experiential Education 23(2):64–74. Frost, David. 2006. “The Concept of ‘Agency’ in Leadership for Learning.” Leading and Managing 12(2):19–28. Gallini, Sara M., and Barbara E. Moely. 2003. “Service-Learning and Engagement, Academic Challenge, and Retention.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 10(1):5–14. Guzzo, Richard A., Paul R. Yost, Richard J. Campbell, and Gregory P. Shea. 1993. “Potency in Groups: Articulating a Construct.” British Journal of Social Psychology 32:87–106. Kuh, George D., Robert M. Gonyea, and Julie M. Williams. 2005. “What Students Expect from College and What They Get.” In Promoting Reasonable Expectations, edited by Thomas E. Miller, Barbara E. Bender, and John H. Schuh, 65–83. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Lund, Darren E., Bronwyn Bragg, Erin Kaipainen, and Lianne Lee. 2014. “Preparing Pre-Service Teachers Through Service-Learning: Collaborating with Community for Children and Youth of Immigrant Backgrounds.” International Journal of Research in Teacher Education 2:1–32. Martin, Brittany H. 2014. “Reaching Out and Drawing In: A Conceptual Framework for Socially Empowered Learning and Student Engagement.” Conference Proceedings, American Educational Research Academy, Philadelphia, PA, April 2014. Martin, Brittany H., and Ann E. Calvert. 2015. “Socially Empowered Learning: Testing a New Model for Intellectual Engagement.” Canadian Society for Study of Education, Congress, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Martin, Brittany H. 2018. “Social Empowerment: The Evolution of a Model and Scale Design that Measures Arts Integration, Social Enterprise, and Other Socially Empowered Learning.” International Journal of Arts Education, in press. Stanton, Timothy K., Dwight E. Giles Jr., and Nadinne Cruz. 1999. Service-Learning: A Movement’s Pioneers Reflect on Its Origins, Practice, and Future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Warren, Jami L. 2012. “Does Service-Learning Increase Student Learning? A Meta-Analysis.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 18(2):56–61.
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