ACADEMIC SERVICE LEARNING ENHANCES CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY IN FIRST YEAR COLLEGE STUDENTS

M. Dono-Koulouris

St. John's University (UNITED STATES)
With our ever-changing student demographics and the students’ role in their education, student engagement outside the classroom has become an important aspect of educating the whole person. The majority of students enter into college having exposure to civic engagement through their high school programs giving them encouragement to move in a forward direction. Students are armed with the background to know they can make a difference in their community. Freshmen entering college today report significantly increased efforts of volunteering in their senior year of high school (Sox et al 1998, 1999 in Golston, 2001). Civic engagement through academic service learning fosters greater community awareness combining community service with academic instruction focusing on critical reflection and being active in the community. Many universities are incorporating service learning in their programs giving educators ways of measuring areas of critical thinking, communication, civic responsibility, global understanding and citizenship, academic development, and educational success. In the past, grades and GPAs have been the only indicators of student learning but as we approached the 21st century many more methods of measuring student success of learning gains have been incorporated, one being academic service learning through civic engagement. Utilizing academic service learning benefits society because it builds character in the students and enhances student learning giving students the opportunity to identify their biases by understanding various aspects of society. Student learning assessed in terms of academic service learning is a valuable learning tool across disciplines and academic majors.

All incoming freshmen within one private Metropolitan New York university are required to take a core course that includes an Academic Service Learning component consisting of at least fifteen to twenty hours at a local community agency by either working in a soup kitchen, at an after school program, or within a nursing home. The students are to maintain a journal for each visit and upon completion of their service they are also responsible for responding to questions in relation to their learning and connection to the site. This paper will proceed to look at the literature on academic service learning and community engagement as well as outline the student gains over the fall, 2014 academic semester.