Title

Critical reflection and the savior role in service learning

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

Abstract

"Service-learning is an emergent high-impact practice in higher education. Research suggests that universities have increasingly incorporated service-learning projects into their curriculum, which have facilitated deeper approaches to learning where students can achieve greater content learning, cultural awareness, and civic engagement. However, a reoccurring and problematic outcome in service-learning projects is learners' development of a perceived "savior role," where students perceive themselves as fulfilling a missionary-like savior role as the privileged members of society. This detrimental side effect of service learning has the potential to reify pre-existing social structures and have students leaving the experience having gained nothing more than feeling better about themselves. This study replicated aspects of Mary Hutchinson's "Living the Rhetoric" study, seeking to determine, like Hutchinson, if students participating in a service-learning project in a technical writing course will see the experience as more than an opportunity to refine their business/technical writing skills. Furthermore, the researcher aimed to determine how writing tasks tied to a service learning situation impact student learning and perceptions of the writing craft. The researcher and a colleague instructed introductory technical communication courses centered on a service-learning project with the goal of both meeting course objectives and, through reflection, instilling greater senses of civic engagement, understanding, and critical awareness. While instructing the course, the researcher gathered data from both his own and his colleague's introduction to technical communication course using surveys, questionnaires, learning logs, progress reports, reflections, and a focus group discussion. Findings indicate that students developed a thorough understanding of the systemic barriers that created the need for the service, students understood their real impact, students' writing strategies became increasingly complex, and students' survey and questionnaire responses became increasingly less internally-focused. These findings suggest that students saw this experience as more than an opportunity to refine their technical writing skills because students demonstrated the development of a critical awareness and learning that went beyond course objectives. These findings are also inconsistent with the savior role"--Leaves iv-v.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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