University of Houston - Downtown (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Page: 3626 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1827
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In this research study, service learning was used as a pedagogical tool to promote critical thinking and understanding of special populations in two different cohorts of general education pre­service teachers. Because little research has addressed the impact of service learning in special education settings, this author set out to explore what the role high­ impact service ­learning projects may have in shaping future general education teachers’ attitudes towards special populations, literacy development, and building inclusive teaching practices in an introductory education course to special populations.

The study focused on the following research questions for both cohorts:
1. How did the literacy project influence students’ attitudes and perspectives towards the culture of special populations?
2. What impact did service learning have on the pre­service teachers’ knowledge and understanding in building inclusive teaching practices?
3. What did the literacy project reveal to the pre­service teachers about the literacy development of youth with special needs?
4. What was learned by the pre­service teachers that was unexpected.

Using an ethnographic design with an emerging coding method the author sought to establish a triangulation of the findings across multiple transcripts and cohorts. Additionally, the investigators employed the methodology of Portraiture to capture the reflections of the students. Portraiture is an important and appropriate research tool for analyzing service­learning projects. It allows researchers to use inclusive and comprehensive means to capture the essence of service­ learning stories.

The focus of this presentation is on the reflections of both cohorts of pre­service teachers who implemented two different literacy programs for incarcerated youth in the hostile environment of a juvenile detention center in a large city in Texas over 2 different semesters. Results indicated students’ attitudes changed over time, teacher perspectives, and knowledge of special populations and literacy development broadened as a result of the project. All participants considered the endeavor worthwhile.

The first literacy project involved 20 pre­service teachers who worked with 28 incarcerated youth to publish five illustrated books that contained their poems, personal narratives, short stories, and artwork. The second program was a reading project specifically designed for a cohort of 15 pre­ service teachers to teach reading to 30 incarcerated youth at various levels of literacy (10 years to 17 yrs.).

The presentation illuminates components of service learning that impacted student outcomes and offers attendees the opportunity to hear the first­hand account of the experiences of the professors and pre­service teachers who participated in the project at a juvenile detention center in Texas. Implications for future research and practice will be discussed.
Special Populations, Pedagogy, Teacher Preparation.