M. Lin, S. Jozwik

Illinois State University (UNITED STATES)
Service learning in teacher preparation programs is an innovative pedagogical approach with documented effectiveness for promoting awareness of social justice issues. Reflection lies at the crux of a well-designed service learning project.

This study attempts to further explore how service-learning experiences influence the reflective practices of preservice teachers in two teacher preparation programs. Hatcher, Bringle, and Muthiah (2004) state that one hallmark of service-learning is reflection. To prepare preservice teachers for the task of reflection, they need to examine their own values and attitudes in a safe learning environment (Lin, Lake, & Rice, 2008). Lin et al. argue that “internalized dialogue” which requires preservice teachers to reflect on their personal cultural values and understand that many ideas that they hold as truths are culturally-based.

Preservice teachers in two teacher preparation programs (i.e., early childhood and special education) participated in this study. Twenty seven were first-year students enrolled in a multicultural education course. Thirty-seven were third-year students enrolled in a literacy development course. The 64 preservice teachers were predominately White and attended a predominately White public institution in the Midwestern United States.

The service learning projects took place at a daycare center and an after school program serving ethnically and racially diverse students. Directors at these two sites worked with the course instructors/researchers to collaborate on project logistics.
Data Collection and Analysis: From the 64 participants, researchers gathered data from written responses to guided reflections. Researchers read all written reflections to establish a general sense of the data. Researchers conducted a second reading to distill themes related to self-reflection of internalized dialogue. Researchers independently generated codes to categorize the data, which were subsequently discussed and applied to determine overlaps and contradictions (Patton, 1990). Researchers identified patterns and generated unifying assertions.

Reflective writing conveyed themes of diversity, relationship-building, and adaptability. Preservice teachers affirmed within themselves a disposition for teaching in diverse settings. Many self-identified a “broadened worldview.” Another common thread related to value of connecting with students to “humanize the experience” of service learning. A final insight centered on the importance of “adaptability” to support learning and development.

Integrating service learning in teacher preparation impacts preservice teachers’ dispositions toward teaching in diverse settings, cultural awareness, social issues, and social responsibility. Careful selection of the setting and project focus as well as ongoing dialogue to support critical self-reflection can maximize project effectiveness.

[1] Hatcher, J., Bringle, R., & Muthiah, R. (2004). Designing effective reflection: What matters to service-learning? Michigan Journal of Community Service-learning, 11(1) 38-46.
[2] Lin, M., Lake, V., & Rice, D. (2008). Teaching anti-bias curriculum in teacher preparation programs: What and How? Teacher Education Quarterly, 35, 187–200.
[3] Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.