Title

Reciprocity in academic service-learning : not simply a matter of principle

Publication Date

1-1-2005

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Martha Merrill

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to learn more about how a reciprocal learning process is incorporated into academic service-learning at an institution of higher education. This is a qualitative, descriptive case study that focused on the academic service-learning programs offered to undergraduate students during the fall semester of the 2004-2005 academic year at Cardinal Stritch University, a private, not-for-profit Franciscan institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. The study considered instructors' intentions concerning the reciprocal learning process, the roles of community expertise, inquiry and collaboration as well as the significance of reciprocity in possible contradictions and tensions of academic service-learning. Five professors, two students, one community agency partner and the researcher collaborated on this study through methods of participant observation, interviews, questionnaires and document research. Data was triangulated and compared using descriptive and interpretive methods of analysis. Several conclusions were drawn that considered the significant differences in the definitions of reciprocity and the variations of service-learning projects happening at the institution. Roles of learners and teachers played an integral part in the levels of learning and service identified. Factors identified to call a service experience reciprocal included face-to-face interaction, fluidity in roles of learners and teachers, and shared control. This study was intended to support the progressive work of the Academic Service-Learning Committee at Cardinal Stritch University. Other academic service-learning providers who consider reciprocity to be an area of development may also find useful insights around the roles of community expertise, inquiry and collaboration as well as the challenges and benefits to incorporating a reciprocal learning process.

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