Information Literacy And Character Education Education Essay

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The National Youth Leadership Council defines service-learning as "an education method that involves students in challenging tasks that meet genuine community tasks that meet genuine community needs and requires that application of knowledge, skills, and systematic reflection on the experience." (Schantz & Louge, 2012) According to John Riddle, "service-learning is different from practicums and basic applied research models, where the "real" world is but a kind of laboratory in which to test concepts. It also differs from internships, which tend to focus on career and job sampling opportunities." (72) Dan Conrad and Diane Hedin have cited a growing trend toward the adoption of service-learning in K-12 schools because of two basic needs. These needs include the reform of youth and the reform of education. (Billig, 2000, pg 658) Service-learning has begun to make an impact on universities and colleges as well as K-12 schools. More universities are developing courses that incorporate service learning to meet core requirements. The 2007 Campus Compact Annual Member Survey indicated that 38% of responding campuses incorporate service-learning into their core curriculum. (Phelps & Dostilio, 2008) RMC Research Corporation summarizes the impacts of that service-learning can make. The impacts include academic gains and school connectedness, civic engagement, personal and social competencies, social capital, and career exploration. (Schantz & Louge, 2012) A study conducted by Eyler and Giles discovered strong learning outcomes for the areas of library science and information literacy. (Riddle, 2003) In this paper, the effects of service learning on student achievement, information literacy, and character education will be examined. The following literature will examine the effects of service-learning from various points of research.

Literature Review

Research has begun to demonstrate that service-learning may lead to improvements in school attendance, grades, test scores, and school climate. It may also play a role in reducing the achievement gap and offers and effective approach to students who struggle with school. (Schantz & Louge, 2012) Jim Grimmer made the following statement concerning the connection between service-learning and academic standards, "The new standards have to do with application of basic learning. Students take things that are one time they simply memorized and instead take them into real-life settings." (Pickeral & Bray, 2000 pg 6)According to Dan Conrad and Diane Hedin, "the case for community service as a legitimate educational practice receives provisional support for quantitative, quasi-experimental students and even more consistent affirmation from the reports and testimony of participants and practitioners." (Billing, 2000, 658) Shelley Billing (2000) suggests that although service-learning is not widely known or understood by the public, it has a substantial following where it is known. According to a media scan conducted by W. K. Kellogg Foundation, more than half of the articles written about service-learning were favorable of the practice. Students in more than half of the high-quality service-learning schools studied displayed moderate to strong gains on achievement tests and language arts or reading. Eighty-three percent of schools within service-learning programs reported that the grade-point averages of participants improved 76% of the time. (Billig, 2000, 661) Anne Seitsinger analyzed two decades worth of data from the Project on High Performance Learning Communities (Project HiPlaces). This data was collected from over 2,000 schools that serve students in Grades pre-K to 12 across 25 states. According to her analysis, teachers involved in the school improvement initiatives believed that service-learning was essential for their students' effective education. Teachers who reported to using service-learning strategies on a regular basis also reported using standards-based practices for literacy, numeracy, and cross-content area practices. This supports that service-learning is aligned and complementary with reform-recommended instructional practices for meaningful teaching and learning. Students engaged in service-learning were able to engage in and develop higher order thinking skills through practices such as small-group discussions, group projects, written reports and papers, reflection and analysis of written work, mathematical reasoning, and problem solving. (Seitsinger, 2005, 27) Daneil Weiler's report "An Evaluation of K-12 Service-Learning in California" states that students in more than half of the schools that were studied with high quality service-learning showed moderate to strong gains on student achievement tests in language arts and reading, engagement in school, sense of educational accomplishment, and homework completion. According to studies, participation in service-learning was associated with higher scores on state tests of basic skills. (Pickeral & Bray, 2000 pg 7) According to the Joseph Follman, researcher of service-learning in Florida for the Center of Civic Education and Service at Florida State University, 83% percent of schools with service-learning programs reported grade point average improvement of students 76% of the time. It was also found that middle and high school students who tutored younger children as part of a service-learning program increased their own grade point average and tests scores in reading/language arts and mathematics. Philadelphia's student scores on the SAT-9 in reading, math, and science increased by 40 percent. Teachers of these students are confident that service-learning provides context for students to understand the world they live in and discover they have a place of value. (Pickeral & Bray, 2000, pg 7-9) Service-learning can have a deep academic impact in college students as well as K-12 students. In many cases, these students learn theoretical foundations with no actual application. Because of this, they normally have their first community experience during internships or practicums at the end of their college experience. According to Kovarik (2010), service-learning can eliminate a disconnection between the college experience and the real-world environment as students have the opportunity to apply information gained in the college classroom. In Kovarik's "The effect of service-learning on interdisciplinary learning and curriculum reinforcement, and its application to public school environments", college freshmen created elementary lesson plans based on trade books concerning the areas of language arts, history, and art. Through this experience, students indicated that their academic learning was strengthened; their awareness of problems facing schools increased, and they were able to identify personal strengths and weaknesses. (2010) In a study conducted by Amy Phelps and Lina Dostilio comparing students in a traditional statistics course and students involved in service learning for a statistics course, 87% percent of students involved in the service learning group reported that the project helped them understand statistical inference. Further analysis of the surveys provided to the students revealed that the service learning students were able to write more deeply about the impact of dealing with real world data. The service learning group also tended to have higher scores across all methods of assessment in the course. (2008) Victoria Calvert reports that the researchers Govekar and Rishi have argued that service-learning has the potential to transform business graduates. This will ensure the continued relevancy of business education. They have reported an enhanced ability to respond to change, better teamwork, an increased awareness of diversity, and improved critical and creative thinking for students who were involved in service-learning projects. Technical and cognitive capabilities have been documented to be enhanced by these projects. When reporting on the "Minding Our Business" service-learning experience, a project connecting business graduates and middle school students, Govekar and Rishi observed the following outcomes in middle school students who received the mentoring program: 72% stated they improved their entrepreneurship skills, 71% gained leadership skills, 69% improved their self-concept, 59% gained team skills, and 53% improved their communication ability. Furthermore, 65% of the participating students stated that they were more interested in entrepreneurship after the experience (2011 pg 119) This information suggests that both parties involved in service-learning can experience gains in achievement.

Recently, service-learning has begun to gather attention in the library community. In 1999 the American Library Association presented a challenge for a review of professional education. Nancy Kranich, the 2000 ALA President, planned to "foster service-learning by proposing an initiative with the National Communications Association that would enlist students to work with libraries in training community residents to use information resources that can help them become information literate." (Riddle, 2003, 71) Studies reviewed by Furco and Billig show that service-learning positively affects reading for information, language art scores, and the student's sense of educational accomplishment. It is suggested that library media specialists take a new look at the possibilities for student information literacy and inquiry based on authentic learning activities for students that contribute to improving the community. (Callison, 2004, pg 39-40) A study conducted by Eyler and Giles surveyed over 1,500 service learning students nationally using both pre-post tests and extensive qualitative focus group interviews. Their findings demonstrated strong learning outcomes for the areas of library science and information literacy. According to the study, students that participated in service-learning discussed in greater detail the need to gather information and define issues regarding community problem solving, are more likely to show an increase in the level of critical thinking demonstrated in problem analysis, and are better able to apply subject concepts, authorities, and information to new problems. (Riddle, 2003, 74) Maureen Barry took this information into account when designing her service-learning experience for her students. According to Barry, many librarians struggle to engage students meaningfully. Many times students seem to lack a real connection to the curriculum and can be unmotivated and difficult to teach. To remedy this issue, students in her information literacy course at Wright State University began providing research to the Children's Hunger Alliance in Ohio. The course content, in-class activities, and homework assignments tied closely to the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards and they provided real-world connections to the community and the curriculum. The students helped solve community problems while developing and refining information literacy skills. (2011)

Service-learning has been shown to provide a positive effect on the personal development of public school children and young adults. (Billig, 2000, 660) Administrators encourage service-learning in order to help students become more active members of the community, knowledgeable of the community, altruistic, and sociable. They also feel that it creates critical thinkers and problem solvers and helps students be more aware of career choices and opportunities. (Callison, 2004, pg 40) Over eighty percent of participants in high-quality service-learning programs felt that they had made a positive contribution to the community. (Billig, 2000,661) Many school counselors find themselves using a plethora of methods to meet the unique needs of students. Service-learning is a method that counselors have begun to use to give students an opportunity to use what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to the community. According to an article written by Shelley Billig in 2002, students who participated in service-learning demonstrated measurable increases in personal and social development, civic responsibility, academic learning, and career development. Scales, Blyth, Berkas, and Kielsmeier in 2000, conducted a study of 1,153 middle school students from racially and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds in three different states. In this study they determined that social responsibility increased among the students who were participating in service-learning programs compared to control groups. (Stott & Jackson, 2006, 156) Using service-learning concepts as part of comprehensive guidance validates school philosophy in many ways. The Alliance for Children: Collaborative Exceptional Peer Tutors (ACCEPT) class was created by a middle school counselor and an elementary school teacher to help meet student needs. Service-learning concepts and comprehensive guidance goals were used to drive the curriculum for this course. Upon completion of this class, the counselor used phenomenological qualitative methods to collect and evaluate data on the effectiveness of the class. The data was collected in a series of individual interviews. The results of the interviews determined that students gained a greater personal awareness, were able to gain a greater understanding of how they interact with their peers socially, were able to plan/set goals, communicate, adapt, and lead, were able to apply learning skills gained in school to their life, and learned character education skills and how to be a better citizen. Some of the character education skills mentioned in the interviews included responsibility, altruism, respect, humility, empathy, and gratitude. (Stott & Jackson, 2006, 157-158) Research has shown that students involved in service-learning activities rank responsibility as an important characteristic and developed higher levels of commitment toward schools. (Kovarik, 2010, pg 3) This commitment is an important factor in the retention of students through graduation in both high school and college. In the Fall of 2000, two Nebraska agricultural education student teachers incorporated a service-learning program called Character Counts! into a high school leadership course. Part of the program required students to create activities to emphasize a pillar of character. These pillars included trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Through creating these activities a general increase of Character Counts! vocabulary was noted in the school. According to educators, the Character Counts! program made a difference in their students' lives. 85% of educators reported an overall positive difference in the children they teach, 73% reported students using the language of the six pillars, and 75% reported changing their own behavior as a result of teaching Character Counts! (Scholz, 2001, pg 16-17)

Though much of the literature speaks favorably of service-learning, many are still concerned about whether it would distract schools from the "basics" or replace the role of parents in teaching values. There has also been expressed concern about student safety and mandatory service, more commonly referred to "involuntary service". (Billing, 2000, 659) Although service-learning increases student engagement, the effect in itself is not necessarily sufficient to produce "robust" student outcomes. In the study conducted by Phelps and Dostilio, the results showed no statistically significant differences between the two groups in responses to whether individual learning objectives were met and only 46% percent of the service learning group indicated that the project helped them understand experimental design of their statistics course. (2008, pg 5) With respect to service-learning and information literacy outcomes, John Riddle states that too little has been written critically considering how service-learning impacts the mission and services of school libraries. (2003, 71) To answer the question "does the particular pedogogy of a subject course (e.g. service-learning) make any difference in instruction and services when providing a library class?" is no. It does not matter whether the class is taught through traditional lecture, active learning, competency based education, or service-learning, the role of the librarian will basically remain the same. (Riddle, 2003, 74)

It has been suggested that those who engaged in service-learning programs show increase in measures of personal and social responsibility, communication, and sense of educational competence. It has also been noted that service-learning increases students' sense of self-esteem, self-efficiency, empathy and reduces their likelihood for "at risk" behaviors. Although these suggestions are favored among many researchers, Shelley Billig notes that there is no evidence of these differences between service-learning groups and control groups of students. (660-661) Billig also denies that any differences were found between participants of service-learning activities and others on measures of civic responsibility. (661)


When service-learning is implemented by knowledgeable teachers, connections may be created between the social change view of education and standards-based approach of educational excellence and equity. Students' educational needs may be met through teacher-facilitated critical thinking, problem solving, and standards-based practices focused on the issues raised during the experience. Service-learning implementation may provide students with an equitable opportunity to learn a standards-based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and maybe help them participate in community service that is integrated into the curriculum. (Seitsinger, 2005, 28) However, Paula Steinke and Stacey Buresh concluded that more substantive research is needed before the fundamental question "where's the learning in service learning?" can be answered. (Riddle, 2003, 71) Shelley Billig states, "Research in the field of service-learning has not caught up with the passion that educators feel for it." (660) The research that exists for the impact of service-learning builds a case for the positive impact on multiple areas of student achievement, however, there are limitations of this research. Most of it has come from service-learning program evaluations. These evaluations are usually made up of surveys and observations and are national in scope. (Billig, 2000, 660) The effectiveness of a service learning experience lies in the proper preparation, organization, and planning. Factors that determine student outcomes include a high degree of student responsibility for the service, student autonomy and choice, direct contact with the service recipient, high-quality reflection activities, and well-prepared teachers who serve as active partners. Stronger academic outcomes can be achieved through intentional integration with specific subject matter in the curriculum. Activities must be aligned with standards. Reflection activities must be included to provoke higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, and problem solving as ways to understand and interpret data related to the service activity and its relationship to community needs. (Billig, 2000, 662) The studies on service-learning in K-12 schools have generated inconsistent results regarding student achievement. (Seitsinger, 2005, 20) In a study conducted by Kendrick, no differences were found between service-learning students and nonservice-learning students in course grades, but he did find that service-learning students showed higher achievement on essay exams (but not multiple-choice exams) and a greater ability to apply concepts from the course than traditional students. This led him to believe that maybe "service-learning promotes quality of thought, even though it may not improve knowledge content." (Steinke & Buresh, 2002, 8) In contrast to this, Steinke and Buresh found that service-learning students generated no more knowledge when asked about an applied theoretical issue than did non-service-learning students in the same class. (2002, 8) The reason behind this may be that few studies have adequate comparison groups, random assignments, or tests of integration of service-learning into the ongoing curriculum.(Seitsinger, 2005, 20) Pickeral and Bray suggest that the challenges that exist for the effectiveness of service-learning opportunities may stem from the varying definitions of its success. For some schools, the a successful program exists by simply providing an opportunity for students to volunteer, but others students are expected to demonstrate a range of achievements gained through their experiences. In addition, credible assessment of the quality and impact of the service-learning experiences is still in development and the ability to track the casual effects of the experiences is difficult, intrusive, and expensive.


Service-learning is a popular educational philosophy that can be traced from the writings of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. According to these philosophers, learning occurs best when students are actively engaged in their own learning and when the learning has a specific purpose. (Billing, 2000, 659) Dewey believed that the best education engages thought and action, emotion, and intellect. He stated "education consists primarily in transmission through communication." and believed that learning occurred through social interaction that is experienced in a realistic setting. (Kovarik, 2010 pg 2) Service-learning's roots can also be found in the writings of David Kolb. He developed a concept of experiential learning and a dual-knowledge theory in which apprehension links with comprehension. (Riddle, 2003, 72) Victoria Calvert states, "Service-learning pedagogy in recognized as providing a dynamic and holistic education." The methodology of service-learning builds on Dewey's 'primary of experience', which promotes active learning and reflection and the body of 'experiential learning' research. This entails students applying academic models to solve problems outside of the classroom. The methodology also contains multitudes of effective teaching strategies. These range from short volunteer placements to semester-long consulting projects. Individual or group-based activities may be included as either course work or extra-curricular activities. It also is capable of providing the structure for the critical learning experiences needed by current and future business graduates and indicates practice for student experience, course content, and community sustainability. (2011pg 118) The "Special Report on Standards, Assessement, Accountability, and Invervention" reports that "States are implementing standards-based reforms in reaction to the failure of past efforts to produce educational environments that ensure high academic achievement for all students." (Pickeral & Bray, 2000 pg 6) Philadelphia's School district has made service-learning a central piece of reform. This is because educators consider service-learning to be an excellent constructivist teaching strategy to help students meet high academic standards through hands-on, real-life projects that enhance textbook and classroom learning. (Pickeral & Bray, 2000, pg 8)

Rework this for global relevancy in future issue: Victoria Calvert reports that the researchers Govekar and Rishi have argued that service-learning has the potential to transform business graduates. This will ensure the continued relevancy of business education. They have reported an enhanced ability to respond to change, better teamwork, an increased awareness of diversity, and improved critical and creative thinking for students who were involved in service-learning projects. Technical and cognitive capabilities have been documented to be enhanced by these projects. (2011 pg 119)