Date of Conferral

1-1-2011

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Duane Richards

Abstract

A primary purpose of public education is to ensure that all citizens have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to participate in a democracy. Service learning is a democratic, constructivist, instructional strategy that connects academic learning with community needs. This phenomenological study described: (a) how youth, their educators, and community partners who experience service learning perceive its effects on themselves, their schools, and their community lives and (b) how professional-development opportunities need to be structured in order to encourage high quality civics education instruction. The problem this study addressed was how to solve youth civic and political disengagement. This study relied heavily upon in-depth interviews of nine middle school students, six middle school educators, and one community partner from a rural community in the northeastern United States. In addition, participant journals and grant documents were reviewed. Rubin and Rubin's guidelines and Tesh's eight step coding process were used to analyze each transcript, journal, and document. Results showed that service learning promoted the application of academic content, motivated students, appealed to various learning styles, built relationships, encouraged collaboration, and provided leadership opportunities. By better understanding the benefits and challenges of service learning projects as described by participants, this study could facilitate positive social change and improvements to current civic education instruction, including higher quality service-learning projects. By working collaboratively, youth, educators, and community partners can address the problem of youth disengagement from civic and political life, thus ensuring the continuation of a healthy democracy.