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Service learning is a well recognized form of experiential learning that connects knowledge with real world experience. Service learning enhances opportunities for improved student academic outcomes (Markus, Howard & King, 1993; Eyler& Giles, 1999; Strage, 2000; Jensen & Burr, 2006; Scales et al., 2006; Averill et al., 2007; Parker, et al., 2009; Lawrence & Butler, 2010; Levesque-Bristol, Knapp & Fisher, 2010; Nandan, 2011;) and contributes to students' personal and social development (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Jensen & Burr, 2006; Parker et al., 2009; Lawrence & Butler, 2010; Molee, Henry & McKinney-Prupis, 2010; Markus, Howard & King, 1993). Service learning provides a promising alternative to traditional class instruction. The critical reflection component of service learning promotes a deep approach to learning that allows students to transform factual knowledge into usable knowledge (Bransford, Brown & Cocking., 2000, p. 16) and gain real world experience (Markus, Howard & King, 1993; Cohen & Kinsey, 1994; Kenrick, 1996). Service learning is considered authentic learning for the 21st century, focused on "learning by doing," and provides experiences to real world problem solving. Much has been written about service learning from the teacher's perspective as well as its positive effect on student academic, personal and social development, however little is written from the students themselves and how they are affected by the experience (Furco & Billig, 2001). I propose to conduct a qualitative single case study of approximately forty-five, high school students who are participating in a High Quality Service Learning (HQSL) project, and explore student participants' firsthand knowledge, perceptions and interpretations of their HQSL experience. The primary question guiding this study is: How are high school students participating in a high quality service learning project affected by their experience, and what specific programming activities or elements of the high quality service learning process provide the most benefit to students? The theoretical framework for this investigation will include two interrelated constructs: Experiential Learning Theory and A Model of Service Learning: (National Service-Learning â€¦ 1998). Data collection will involve the following components:
Pre and Post Student Surveys/Questionnaire (open ended questions) and Post Student Rubric of Essential Elements of HQSL Best Practices;
Observation of class discussion in a natural setting;
(c) Review of (selected) student documents (journal entries, discussion posts),
and collection of Artifacts (I am Poem, video of field work and product presentation). A combination of analytic strategies (Madison, 2005, and Huberman & Miles, 1994 as cited in Creswell, 2007, p. 149) will be used for data analysis. The information will be recorded by field notes and observational (and interview) protocols (Creswell, 2007, p. 121). Clearly defined protocols are essential to limit possible field issues during data collection. Data collection information will be stored in the form of field notes, transcripts and computer files. Hyper Research or a comparable software package can assist with identifying relationships among meaning categories and to cross check findings as used in the Lawrence & Butler, (2010) study. The findings will translate to valuable practice information needed by educators to provide quality service learning programming while also allowing them to devote the resources necessary for the development of the most meaningful and relevant learning experience for students.
Keywords: experiential learning, high quality service learning, critical reflection, authentic learning, real world ready(iness)
There is something uniquely powerful about the combination of service and learning. There is something fundamentally more dynamic in the integration of the two than in either alone. (Kendall, 2001)
*For the purpose of this study, service learning and high quality service learning will be used synonymously. Student "perceptions" refers to individual judgment, opinion and feelings. "Real world ready(iness)" refers to skills such as problem solving and critical thinking; collaboration across networking and leading by influence; agility and adaptability; initiative and effective written and oral communication; the ability to access and analyze information; and, curiosity and imagination that students will need to succeed as citizens and workers in the 21st century (Wagner, 2008); and high quality service learning refers to an experiential teaching method that "combines academic instruction, meaningful service, and critical reflective thinking to enhance student learning and civic responsibility" (Peace Corps, 1998, p. 6), and in collaboration with adults, provides student participants a strong voice and ownership in planning, implementing, and evaluation (National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, 2008).
Educational Problem of Practice
The world has become increasingly more globalized and fast paced. Education is changing. The skills necessary for students to be successful are no longer merely academic. A Roper Poll (2000) concluded that the vast majority of Americans (78%) expect schools to provide students with the academic skills they need to be successful in life; however, 90% also believe that success requires more than mastering basic subjects and that schools have a clear responsibility to link what children study in school to the skills they will need at work and in their communities (68%) (Roper Starch Worldwide, 2000). . Yet, paradoxically, there exists a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students "learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for success in their communities and workplaces" (Partnership For 21stâ€¦ p. 21). According to Partnership For 21st century, US "schools must align classroom environments with real world environments" (p.21) in order to prepare students to be real world ready. Service learning is one important vehicle that can prepare students to be real world ready through the involvement of schools, communities and students working together to make projects "interdisciplinary, integrated and project-based" (Wagner, 2008, p. 64). A comprehensive review of service learning from 1990 to 1999 demonstrated that students participating in service learning can develop a stronger service ethic, respect for diversity, a sense of efficacy, a more realistic sense of career possibilities, and a greater frequency of being engaged in school and community (Billig, 2002, p.4). Service learning as an experiential pedagogy empowers students by making them responsible in a real world context while also providing support, encouragement, information, and skills to be effective (Rosenberg, 2000, p. 8). Nine in ten parents (familiar with service learning) also agree that service learning helps students develop the skills needed to be successful later in life, and they support and recognize the immediate and concrete benefits of service learning projects (Roper Poll, 2000).
While all service learning is not created equal, the potential benefits of high quality service learning are substantial. High quality service learning experiences have been demonstrated to help students reach their full potential (as learners) and to become successful and productive adults later in life (Terry, 2005/2006). High quality service learning has been shown to improve grade point average, increase understanding of course content and better engage students in their overall learning experience (Billig, 2002;2006; Kaye, 2004; Pleasants, Stephens, Selph & Pfeiffer, 2004; Schaeffer, 2005; Strage, 2004). Much has been written about the service learning experience from the teacher's perceptive as well as its positive effects on students' academic outcomes, civic, personal, social, ethical and vocational development (Conrad and Hedin 1991; Furco 1994; Andersen 1998; Billig 2000; Furco & Billig, 2001 and Shumer 2005); however, limited empirical research has been written from student participants own perceptions of their high quality service learning experience. The importance of the student perspective is to understand how the phenomenon of service learning impacts students from the perspective of the lived experience. Quality matters in service learning. Until there is better understanding of the student perspective and their service learning experience, educators cannot best align service learning goals to curricular standards and specific outcomes that involve the highest critical reflection component. Conducting further investigation into the student perspective of their (HGSL) lived experience will assist educators in designing programming that most benefits student outcomes (academic, personal and social) while also providing real world connections to learning.
Significance of Problem
There is much significance to this proposed research study because while the positive effects of high school service learning programs are well documented; the exploration of high quality service learning, and students' perception of how these learning experiences affect them have all been minimally studied (Furco & Billig, 2001). For this proposed study, the primary focus is: How student participants are affected by their high quality service learning experience, and what information and elements of the student experience can most benefit educators in strategizing, planning and implementing the highest quality service learning programming?
This research is important on multiple levels because students are powerful determinants of their learning. "If we are to have any understanding of what students make of their lives, then we have to make a genuine attempt to see and understand their world as they see and understand" (Cusik, 1973, p.4). Through exploring student perceptions and interpretations of their service learning experience, a greater and more in-depth understanding of the persons most directly affected by the learning experience, the students themselves, will be added to the literature. English sociologists Hammersley and Woods (1984), noted that the "critical link in the educational chain" is a student's own perceptions and interpretations of the school process (p.3).
Research estimates that approximately one third of the K-12 population participate in service learning programs. However, fewer than more service learning programs are not distinguished as high quality. High quality service learning combines learning objectives and service objectives, with the strong intent of mutually benefiting both the student learner (participant) and recipient of service (community), and adopts a mutual collaboration of voice between student and adult in planning, implementing, reflecting and evaluating the experience (National Serviceâ€¦2008). The benefits of high quality service learning can be very personal and deep since HGSL programs incorporate structured activities for self-reflection and self-discovery while also acquiring and understanding values, skills and knowledge content (National Serviceâ€¦ 2012, p. 1). Research demonstrates that HQSL can engage students with their schoolwork; improve their motivation and self-esteem; strengthen their positive relationships with peers and adults; and reduce student dropout rates (Furco & Seidel, 2012). A more rich and in-depth understanding of HGSL through review of student participants' critical reflection and evaluation activities can assist educators in designing the best, most meaningful and relevant activities for students to keep them engaged and motivated in their learning.
According to John Dewey, the father of experiential education, all genuine education comes through experience, and learning occurs through social interaction experienced in real world context (Dewey, 1938, p. 25). The role of the teacher is to cultivate and strengthen student learning so that students can develop Agency, Belonging and Competence (ABCs) during the service learning experience. Cultivating a learning environment involves "establishing and nurturing the development of a physical and social context for learning" (Carver, 1996, p. 153). In order to enhance student learning and real world readiness skills, schools must make classroom experiences more productive and devote more time and resources to purposeful activities outside of the classroom (Kuh, Schuh, Whitt & Associates, 1991). This study will contribute to the understanding of how and why student participants are affected by specific productive and purposeful activities while participating in a high quality service learning experience; and help teachers better utilize and distribute resources to best improve and cultivate the learning environment (Carver, p. 153-4).
In order for teachers to be adequately prepared to use high quality service learning in their classrooms, they must understand the student's perspective and their interpretations of how they are affected by the experience not just the effects of the service learning itself. Research indicates that "successful teachers are the ones who adequately prepare to use instructional strategies that challenge students in solving complex problems, probe for deeper understanding, and seek opportunities for students to transfer knowledge from one context to another" (Rosenshine & Furst, 1973; Darling-Hammond, Wise & Pease, 1983; Good & Brophy, 1986; National Research Council, 1999). It is these active learning opportunities that develop the 21st century skills needed for our students to succeed at school, in their communities and workplace (SEANET State Education Agency, 2010).
This proposed study is significant enough to be currently at the center stage of education reform and 21st century preparedness. On a national and state level, there is great significance to this study because there is a growing body of literature that describes service learning as a national movement that is part of the educational reform within K-12 education (Henness, 2001, p. 7). Service learning is considered an important pedagogy and its goals are consistent with national educational initiatives such as Race To The Top, 2000, (preparing students for 21st century, real world readiness skills), and with statewide initiatives such as of Massachusetts' Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2002.
For these reasons, this proposed study is a worthy research project that has educational programming and pedagogical significance at the local, state and national level. This study can provide valuable and direct student insight; benefit teacher planning and design for high quality programming; and help establish service learning as a credible and legitimate pedagogy and strategy for school reform. On the national level, this proposed study can provide critical information (from the student perspective of how they are affected by their experience), and help teachers design and help meet the 21st century goals for learning and skill development that is needed to prepare our students to succeed as citizens, in the workplaces and their communities.
Intellectual and Practical Goals
Maxwell (2005) describes the purpose of intellectual goals as being motivated by a desire for insight and understanding of what is going on, and why it is happening, or finding the answers that previous research has not adequately addressed. The intellectual goals for this study are (1) to better understand how high school students are affected by their high quality service learning experience, and (2) to further investigate what constitutes the most beneficial, meaningful and relevant activities or elements of their high quality service learning programming. These goals will be achieved through direct student observation of discussion in their natural setting; review of selected student documents such as journals, discussion logs and artifacts; pre and post survey; and post rubric of best practices as well as an extensive review of the professional literature that explores the student perspective and best practice of high quality service learning. Service learning research has provided much information regarding the effects of service learning on participants but has sought minimal information directly from the students themselves. It is important to explore the totality of the student experience so that the practical goal of teachers utilizing this information to design quality programming is achieved. This study will contribute valuable student perspective and specific practice information regarding what activities and/or elements of the service learning experience students perceive as most beneficial, meaningful, relevant and for them during their service learning experience (based on the most effective elements SL practice). This information can help teachers provide better program design that can improve student outcomes and best prepare student for real world readiness. The in depth insight and information gained from investigating the students' direct and first hand knowledge of the service learning experience will contribute concrete program knowledge for immediate and future application of high quality programming design. This research will also contribute to future high quality programming within this high school site, other schools in the district and the district overall. This case study involves a school district that has received both state and national recognition for high quality serivce learning. In this regard, the proposed study will not only add insight to the challenge of developing high quality progamming, it will also contribute additional and specific best practice information directly from students participating in an established high quality service learning project.
While much is written about the effects of service learning on students, little is written from the student participants' perspective of their high quality service learning experience. The guiding question of this proposed study seeks to fill this gap in the literature regarding the students' first hand knowledge, interpretations and insight of their high quality service learning experience. Investigating the student perspective will help provide educators with new practice information direct from the primary source- the student. This information will help teachers determine what specific activities or elements of a high quality service learning experience provide the most benefit for students so that they can design and implement high quality service learning programming for their students. Experiential Learning Theory and A Service-Learning Model for Essential Elements of Quality Practices (EEQP), (National Service- Learningâ€¦, 1998) provide a theoretical framework for the questions below.
The researcher will consider the guiding question in this study: How are high school students participating in a high quality service learning project affected by their experience, and what are the specific programming activities or elements of the high quality service learning process that provide the most benefit to students? These guiding questions reflect the dual purpose of this study: to investigate how students are affected by their high quality service learning experience and to provide specific programming information from the student perspective based on the Effective Practices of Service Learning Model.
1. What do student participants view as the most valuable (meaningful and relevant) activities or components of their high quality service learning experience, and why? (Direct Observation of Classroom Discussion, Review of Documents and Artifacts, such as journal entries, discussion blogs and I AM Poems and Rubric).
2. What specific activities or components of the high quality service learning process provided the best opportunity for students to transfer factual knowledge (curricular) into usable (real world) knowledge? (Direct Observation of Class Discussion, Review of Documents and Artifacts, and Rubric).
3. How have students' perceptions and development (growth) during the high quality service learning experience changed from the beginning of the SL project until the end? (Pre/Post Surveys, Direct Observation of Classroom Discussion, Review of Journal Entries and Discussion Blogs).
These questions and what they propose to examine will also guide further literature review and research selection. The questions guiding this research will be purposively focused on the student participant so that student perceptions can be incorporated into teacher service learning practice and programming. The effects of service learning on student academic outcomes and personal and social development have been widely researched; however, very little empirical research has been conducted concerning students' own perceptions and interpretations of the service learning process, and how teachers can directly apply what is learned to the practice and development of high quality programming. The transfer of service learning student knowledge to teacher high quality practice and program application is a critical link that is missing in the literature.
Paper Organization and Content
This proposal is organized into five parts that outline the design for the proposed study. Part I, the Theoretical Framework of Experiential Learning Theory combined with a Model for Service Learning (essential elements of quality SL), and its relevance to the student perspective and experience of high quality service learning is explained. Part II, the Literature Review, consists of a comprehensive review of three primary areas of inquiry: the historical background and growth of service learning; the positive impacts of service learning on student participants; and the value of critical reflection and evaluation for students during the service learning process. These areas of inquiry will help inform the researcher of what is already known or understood about the service learning phenomenon and highlight the gaps in existing professional literature that establish the foundation and merit for conducting this proposed research. Part III, Methodology, provides a detailed design for this proposed research guided by research questions and its practical elements such as site, subject and qualitative case study approach selection including a triangular data collection method and a combination of analytical strategies for data analysis; measures of data gathering and analysis to strengthen the validity and credibility of this proposed research, and a discussion of possible research limitations. Part IV discusses ethical considerations and precautions taken to protect student participants from potential harm. Part V, reviews a summary and conclusion of the proposed study's significance and its potential contribution to improving non-traditional teaching practice and service learning pedagogy, programming and research. Appendices include the application to the Institutional Review Board and all the related and supporting documents that will be used for this proposed study.
Much of the literature reviewed compares service learning (SL), an experiential pedagogy with traditional classroom pedagogy in order to gauge service learning's effectiveness. The primary difference between the traditional classroom experience and non-traditional service learning experience is the benefits of applied learning (O'Loughlin Brooks & Smith, 2011, p. 71). The service learning experience challenges students on multiple levels and in a manner that traditional learning does not (2011, p. 71). Service learning evolved from experiential, hands on learning that connects meaningful life experiences with learning (Dewey, 1916). The theoretical framework for this investigation will include two interrelated lenses: Experiential Learning Theory and A Model of Service Learning, (National Service-Learning Cooperative & National Youth Leadership Council, 1999). Collectively, these two lenses provide an analytical framework that considers the student participant's hands on learning experience and the impact of their actions (service) in the real world environment (community). Experiential theorist, John Dewey explained that an individual and community is one in the same, just like the learner who cannot be separated from the environment; both are needed to exist and learn (Hutchinson, 2000). The proposed framework will provide a lens into investigating the scope of the students' overall service learning experience that includes both the learner and the experience, and will help to explain the guiding question of this proposed study: How are high school students participating in a high quality service learning project affected by their experience, and what specific programming activities or elements of the high quality service learning process contribute the most benefit to students?
Dewey explained experiential learning theory as the belief that all genuine education comes through experience, and learning occurs through social interaction experienced in real world context; however, this does not mean all experiences are "genuine or equally educativeâ€¦ Everything depends upon the quality of the experienceâ€¦ (as)â€¦ every experience lives on in further experience (Dewey, 1938, pp. 25-26). The combined lens of Experiential Learning Theory and A Model of Service Learning is necessary to create a framework that will encapsulate the whole scope of the service learning phenomenon: the student and the quality of their experience. Experiential Learning Theory will provide insight to the process of change (impact and development) that occurs for the student participant during the service learning experience and how the student participant constructs knowledge, skill and value from their direct service learning experience (Itin, C.M., 1999, p. 91). A Model of Service Learning (Essential Elements of Service Learning Practice) will provide a lens for quality of the experiential learning experience and help identify what specific activities and/or elements of high quality service learning contribute the most value, benefit and meaning for student participants. This framework purposively focuses on the student participant (learner) and their experience, and provides the student voice of service learning so that it can be incorporated into teachers' service learning practice and programming. The transfer of service learning student knowledge to teacher high quality practice and program application is a critical link that is missing in the literature.
Experiential Learning Theory
Creswell (2009) states that the theory provides a perspective or "lens that shapes what is looked at, the questions askedâ€¦" (p. 49), "informs how data are collected and analyzed, and provides for a call of action or change" (p. 62). Experiential learning theory will provide a lens into the service learning benefits and value for the student participant; a social learning construct for the student that enhances and connects academic learning through meaningful and relevant experience and critical reflection.
Experiential theorists John Dewey and David Kolb believe that people learn better by doing; hands on learning (Cone & Harris, 1996). Lev Vygotsky (1978) emphasized learning as a social process that promotes learning contexts which students are active participants in their learning and the roles of the teacher and student are shifted away from the traditional roles in a conventional classroom setting. In experiential learning, there is reciprocity of learning experience between the teacher and student; a collaborative effort to facilitate meaning construction for students. Paulo Freire described service learning as an experiential approach to learning that "empowers" individuals and communities. Service learning opposes the conventional teaching method of "banking approach"- whereby teachers "deposit information into the student, so that the student can then withdraw information when requested" instead of actively involving students in the learning experience (Itin, 1999, p. 93). Freire preferred "problem solving education (which) affirms men and women as being in the process of becoming- as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality" (As cited in Cones & Harris, p. 45). Theorist, David Moore (1990) adds that there is no such thing as fixed meaning but rather shifting systems of meaning such as in experiential learning.
The function of the experience and connection to meaningful experiences (through critical reflection and evaluation) enhances the individual's service learning process and experience (Cone & Harris, 1996). According to Dewey, a good education should have a societal purpose (prepare individuals to be contributing members of society and community) and also a purpose for the individual student (to gain useful skills that prepare individuals to be successful in life and success) (The Foxfireâ€¦ 1999). Service learning is a form of experiential learning that involves active and authentic learning on the students' part- a balance of knowledge and experience.
Transference of Factual Knowledge to Real World Application.
Building on Dewey's early work and research, Kolb (1984) also believed that learning is a process whereby knowledge is created through transformation of experience; transferring learning from past experience and building new skills to improve understanding (Starnes, Paris & Stevens, 1999). Kolb outlined a theoretical model (above) pertinent to understanding the process of the student's service learning experience. Student participants move through the different stages of the service learning experience: concrete experience (feeling), reflective observation (observe/watching), abstract conceptualization (thinking) and active experimentation (doing). Experiential learning classrooms employ a variety of instructional methods to foster each of Kolb's Model stages. For example, concrete experience (CE) includes recalling past experience; reflective observation (RO) includes group discussion, reflective papers or journals' abstract conceptualization (AC) includes stimulation by lectures, films or resource material and sources; abstract experience (AE) includes problem solving exercising, role playing and mock exercises. Kolb's Model helps explain the process of service learning (as a form of experiential learning) where students process real life scenario and analyze course content through real life situations in real world context (Lewis & Williams, 1994). A Model of Student Engagement through Kolb's Styles as Process in Service Learning (1997) notes that learning can begin at any point of the cycle and the preferred entrance indicates the learning style preference of the student (Bringle & Source, 1997). Kolb suggests that reflection is essential to the overall learning process since it can connect the concrete to the abstract (Bringle & Source, 1997, p. 153). As a theoretical construct, Kolb's Model of experiential learning is important for understanding how students are affected by their learning as they move through the experiential learning process. The connection of classroom learning and real world learning, along with the critical reflective component are valuable to this proposed study's guiding question since the student experience is critical to gaining a more depth understanding of the service learning phenomenon and what components of best practice contribute the most student benefit. Through this intellectual lens, further examination concerning the importance of relevance in learning, specifically what components of the service learning process provide the most value for students, and how they are able to develop a more reflective element produced by experiential learning will be useful.
Inquiry Based Learning to Foster Student Growth and Development.
Experiential Learning Theory also incorporates Dewey's view that Inquiry Based Learning is needed to be educative. Inquiry based learning (a) generates interest in the learner; (b) becomes intrinsically worthwhile to the learner; (c) presents problems that awaken new curiosity and create a demand for information; and (d) covers a considerable time span and is capable of fostering development over time (Giles & Eyler 1994). Experiential learning theory helps us to understand the learning benefits and value of the service learning for the student, specifically how service learning enhances and connects academic learning through meaningful and relevant real world experiences. Experiential Learning Theory will help clarify and explain research sub question: (1) What do student participants view as the most valuable (meaningful and relevant) activities or components of their high quality service learning experience, and why? And, sub question: (3) How have students' perceptions and development (growth) during the high quality service learning experience changed from the beginning of the SL project until the end? Through this intellectual lens, further examination concerning the importance of relevance in learning, specifically what components of the service learning process provide the most value for students, and how they are able to develop a more reflective element produced by experiential learning will be useful.
Cultivating Student Learning Environment.
Dewey's (1997) philosophy of learning, specifically, is the process that occurs between a teacher and student that purposefully engages the learner, and infuses direct experience with learning environment and content. The experiential learning philosophy involves the learner integrating what is being learned (curriculum) with the actions (service) that are required to develop competency in the learner. (Itin, 1999, p. 93). Experiential learning is the process of change in the individual and the transactive process between teacher and student (Itin, 1999). The teacher has the responsibility of selecting opportunity for experiences; helping student to utilize these experiences; and establishing the learning environments and sharing pertinent information to facilitate learning (Itin, 1999, p. 93). To enhance student learning and real world readiness skills, schools must make classroom experiences more productive and devote more time and resources to purposeful activities outside of the classroom (Kuh, Schuh, Whitt & Associates, 1991). This lens will be helpful in determining the true benefits of service learning for the learner.
This is of particular interest to this problem of practice because it addresses the relationship of academic and service learning and the extent to which a student's potential increases through successfully learning and working with others. In order for teachers to apply the gained knowledge and insight learned from the student perspective in the proposed study, identification of service learning components that create the greatest benefit to students' overall SL experience must be determined. This lens will contribute information regarding the resources that will help to cultivate the learning environment for students so that teachers can provide the maximum learning context and resources for classroom (Kuh, Schuh, Whitt & Associates, 1991). This study will contribute to the understanding of how and why student participants are affected by specific productive and purposeful activities while participating in a high quality service learning experience; and help teachers better utilize and distribute resources to best improve and cultivate the learning environment (Carver, p. 153-4).
This explains the important concept of experiential learning as teacher and student engaged in purposive experience (Dewey, 1938). This dynamic relationship between teacher and student is student-centered and essential in creating an educational process based on transactional and interactional (implied) exchange of teacher and student (Itin, 1999 p. 94). John Davis' (1993) Model of Teaching demonstrates a framework for conceptualizing the transactive process between teacher and student whereby the teacher and student reciprocally present information; exchange knowledge and learn form one another during the process while also effecting or impacting the environment (Itin, 1999, p. 95). In the more sophiscated Diamond Model both the philosophy of experiential education and teaching are incorporated and information flows between four principle systems: the student, teacher, subject and environment. The teaching process is at the core of this model (Itin, 1999, p. 95). This philosophy of experiential learning would "direct teachers toward providing more opportunities for students to interact" with the other three principal systems: teacher, subject matter and environment (Itin, 1999, p. 96). Mastering the curriculum is only part of the learning equation- understanding how to apply it to real world is the philosophy and goal of service learning as an experiential learning process.
A Model of Service Learning (Essential Elements for Quality Practice)
Service learning is reciprocally beneficial, with meaningful service being provided to the community and meaningful learning experiences provided for the student (McAleavey, 1996). Service learning has been researched for the past three decades, however it is only in the past fifteen years that more research and focus have centered on the most effective practices of service learning. Collective work from a variety of sources such as Standards of Quality for School-Based and Community-Based Service-Learning; Alliance for Service Learning in Education reform; Essential Elements of Service-Learning; Wingspread Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning; and Coverdell World Wise Schools Service Learning Rubric (Peace Corps, 2006) have developed standards and criteria for high quality service learning practice (with slight variation). The Essential Elements of Service-Learning Practice involves: The Model of SL Quality Practice used as a lens or this proposed study is needed to better understand essential components of the established and recognized HGSL program that is being investigated. This SL Model can help clarify what specific components of high quality service activities contribute the best quality and benefits for student programming. This study proposed to investigate the components that contribute the most benefit, value and meaning according to student participants. This information is essential for teachers if they are to provide the best and most essential elements of SL programming for students.
Service learning is a method of instruction that integrates classroom objectives with service activities. Elyer& Giles (1994), two emerging theorists regarding service learning and have advocated for a more definitive framework for service learning to guide research and to improve practice. All service learning programming is not created equal. Research indicates that there are more marginal service learning projects than high quality service learning projects. A Service Learning Model (Essential Elements of Quality Practice, EEQP) will provide a lens to view students' personal growth, career development, social development and academic/cognitive development. A Model of Service Learning EEQP will provide a more specific lens into the experience of action (service) as well as the students' academic and personal and social growth regarding consciousness and course work. A Model of Service Learning EEQP will specifically help explain sub questions two and three: 2) what specific activities or elements of the HQSL process provide the best opportunity to transfer factual knowledge into usable knowledge and question 3) how students' perceptions and growth have changed during the HQSL experience. A SL Model provides the intellectual lens of how development of higher thinking skills and an understanding of problems through a more personal connection and involvement occur. Traditional teaching delivery of knowledge needs to be balanced with a greater emphasis on student's actual experience and active learning (Dewey, 1972-85). Extensive research suggests that A Service Learning Model of EEQP will provide a framework to help clarify why it is important to incorporate service learning pedagogy into the traditional curriculum, and the specific activities or elements that students perceive as most valuable or beneficial to them in the classroom and in preparation for the real world environment.
Experiential theory is appropriate for the first question and provides a framework more specific to the learner regarding service learning's benefits as an authentic learning experience. A Model of Service Learning is particularly relevant to the second question in order to understand the overarching student benefits of the real lived "action" and interaction of students during the service learning experience. Questions one and two also weave together threads of both Experiential Learning Theory and Model of Service Learning, as the overlap of the learner and the experience cannot be overlooked. Both lenses provide the overall framework for examining students as active learners who increase their potential for learning when they work and learn from others such as in service learning.