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Service learning or practice: a mixed method evaluation of experiential learning teaching method

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Document pages: 9 pages

Abstract: Experiential learning teaching method, including Internship and service learning experience, is becoming more and more popular in higher education. Internships allow students to experience, so as to improve their learning or skills in their field of study. In contrast, service learning is an experiential education in which students usually participate in service in the community and reflect on their participation in order to further understand the discipline and its relationship with social needs. So far, there is no research to directly compare these teaching models. Therefore, this study systematically evaluates the service learning experience and internship experience using the mixed method model. The main result is students self-efficacy. Sixteen exercise physiology students (13 females) completed a community-based wellness internship with a subgroup (nine students, 7 females) allocated to a service-learning component of internship designed to improve self-efficacy. At the end of the semester, students completed a 15-item online self-efficacy and satisfaction survey. Three focus groups were conducted in which 3-4 participants responded to a series of nine questions that explored their experience. Overall responses to the self-efficacy and satisfaction survey were favorable for both groups, but the internship group was more likely to agree or strongly agree with statements of self-efficacy. Focus groups found that the internship experience reinforced classroom learning, but the ability to work with different populations and ability levels was mentioned only by the service-learning group. Themes from reflective assignments, such as engaging with community members and professional exploration, were evident only in the service-learning group responses. Therefore, the findings indicate that service-learning reflection assignments successfully connect the service experience to relevant course outcomes promoting student development but may not improve self-reported self-efficacy beyond that of a typical internship experience.

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