Change over a Service Learning Experience in Science Undergraduates' Beliefs Expressed about Elementary School Students' Ability to Learn Science Open Access

Goebel, Camille A. (2008)

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This longitudinal investigation explores the change in four (3 female, 1 male) science undergraduates' beliefs expressed about low-income elementary school students' ability to learn science. The study sought to identify how the undergraduates in year-long public school science-teaching partnerships perceived the social, cultural, and economic factors affecting student learning. Previous service-learning research infrequently focused on science undergraduates relative to science and society or detailed expressions of their beliefs and field practices over the experience. Qualitative methodology was used to guide the implementation and analysis of this study. A sample of an additional 20 science undergraduates likewise involved in intensive reflection in the service learning in science teaching (SLST) course called Elementary Science Education Partners (ESEP) was used to examine the typicality of the case participants. The findings show two major changes in science undergraduates' belief expressions: (1) a reduction in statements of beliefs from a deficit thinking perspective about the elementary school students' ability to learn science, and (2) a shift in the attribution of students' underlying problems in science learning from individual-oriented to systemic-oriented influences. Additional findings reveal that the science undergraduates perceived they had personally and profoundly changed as a result of the SLST experience. Changes include: (1) the gain of a new understanding of others' situations different from their own; (2) the realization of and appreciation for their relative positions of privilege due to their educational background and family support; (3) the gain in ability to communicate, teach, and work with others; (4) the idea that they were more socially and culturally connected to their community outside the university and their college classrooms; and (5) a broadening of the way they understood or thought about science. Women participants stated that the experience validated their science and science-related career choices. Results imply that these changes have the potential to strengthen the undergraduate pursuit of science-related careers and will contribute positive influences to our education system and society at large.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Statement of the Problem History and Characteristics of Service Learning Theoretical Framework Purpose of the Study CHAPTER 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Overview Category One: Studies Where University Students Provide Certain Expertise to the Service-Learning Relationship Category Two: Studies Where Community Members and University Students each Provide Certain Expertise to the Service-Learning Relationship Category Three: Studies Where Community Members Provide Certain Expertise to the Service-Learning Relationship Summary: Service-Relationship Categories CHAPTER 3. METHOD Research Questions Definition of Terms Setting and Demographics Public Schools University Campus

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