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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Reaching Out and Jumping In: The Relational Context of Service-Learning
by Woods, Angie L., Ph.D., University of Cincinnati, 2013, 237; 3597991
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines how college students' participation in a Spanish service-learning course affected their perceptions of language culture and community. Findings demonstrate that students will potentially experience connections, disconnections, and reconnections when they interact with others in a Spanish service-learning experience. The connections that they form may motivate them to improve their skills and knowledge related to the subject matter. In this qualitative, practitioner action research study, I interviewed four students who were enrolled in my service-learning course. The narratives were analyzed using the Listening Guide (Gilligan et al., 2003) a feminist relational methodology.

When the students spoke of their experiences with language, culture, and community in interviews prior to taking the course, they used voices of powerlessness, rejection, observation, and separation. In the interviews that occurred after the service-learning experience, their voices spoke of empowerment, acceptance, participation, and inclusion. Cross-case analysis revealed that students formed relationships with the community, other students, and the instructor during the service-learning experience. Even if these relationships were short-term and limited, they often experienced the cycle of connection, disconnection, and connection of long-term relationships. Prior to the course, students spoke of previous experiences with language-exclusion and disconnections that they experienced because of their relational images of observation and separation. When they spoke of their service-learning experiences, they described multiple relational triangles (Hawkins, 1974; Raider-Roth & Holzer, 2009) and revealed their developed sense of empathy. This empathy demonstrates the connections they formed with other students and with the community members. Two students spoke of disconnections that occurred during the course, but these disconnections were outweighed by connections. These connections led them to desire more meaningful connections, which they realized could only happen by improving their language skills.

The implications of this study suggest that in a relational service-learning course, instructors no longer are only part of the relational triangle between the instructor, the student, and the subject matter; they also facilitate relationships between students, community partner organizations, community members, other volunteers, and the subject matter. The multiple relational triangles that they facilitate combine to form a relational hexagon. This relational understanding of service-learning has implications for instructors, the discipline, and the university.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Raider-Roth, Miriam
Commitee: Beckett, Gulbahar, Brydon-Miller, Mary, Vaughn, Lisa
School: University of Cincinnati
Department: Educational Studies
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 75/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Foreign Language
Keywords: Connection, Disconnection, Relational, Service-learning, Spanish
Publication Number: 3597991
ISBN: 978-1-303-46375-4
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