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The purpose of this study was to measure student affective, behavior, and content (ABC) and global awareness outcomes after participating in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)–based international service-learning (ISL) course and impacts on long-term retention in STEM fields. We compared experiences from 12 participants (undergraduate and graduate students) enrolled in a STEM-based ISL course with experiences from four students enrolled in the same course without the service-learning component. The ISL course involved classroom discussions on environmental topics and four local and ISL projects with community partners to contribute to conservation efforts. Data came from student responses on a civics awareness questionnaire, reflective journal entries, and responses captured during individual semistructured interviews 2 years after the course. Findings indicate positive improvements in affective outcomes, significant gains in civic awareness, differences in behaviors based on class of student, specific content gains related to service-learning activities, global awareness gains for all students, and differential impacts on retention in STEM-related fields. Keywords service-learning, international partnerships, ABC reflections, civic awareness, STEM understanding competence, global awareness, and understanding (De Witt, International Service-Learning (ISL) 2002; Plater, Jones, Bringle, & Clayton, 2009). ISL incorpo- There is a push to recruit and retain students into science, tech- rates the components of both service-learning and interna- nology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields (National tional education (Bringle, Hatcher, & Jones, 2011; Nickols, Academy of Sciences [NAS], 2007) as well as improve civic Rothenberg, Moshi, & Tetloff, 2013; Plater et al., 2009). The awareness (Moely, McFarland, Miron, Mercer, & Ilustre, connection between classroom instruction and community 2002). Service-learning allows students to learn through real- participation in an international dimension provides a unique world application of content knowledge by collaborating with learning experience in an intercultural setting (Crabtree, community partners (Brown, Hershock, Finelli, & O’Neal, 2008; Sternberger, Ford, & Hale, 2005). Authentic learning 2009). This style of learning enhances academic knowledge, experiences associated with ISL differentiates it from tradi- personal awareness, and sense of civic responsibility (Ash & tional pedagogical approaches such as study abroad and inter- Clayton, 2009). As such, service-learning is often referred to national education (Bringle et al., 2011). ISL experiences as a type of “experiential education” (Brubaker & Ostroff, offered to students in higher education may help retention in 2000), where learning takes place through the actual experi- STEM fields along with improved understanding of the ence rather than in a traditional classroom environment. When world. Therefore, a STEM-based ISL course serves the dual used in conjunction with STEM contexts, service-learning not purpose of generating global awareness and development of only improves students’ social values but also facilitates STEM interest among students. However, the limited number involvement in the community and increases retention in of such courses currently offered at the college level, requires STEM fields (Davis & Finelli, 2007; NAS, 2007). However, most service-learning endeavors have been associated with social science courses rather than STEM courses and are iso- Texas State University, San Marcos, USA lated to local community partners. The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, USA In recent years, service-learning courses have expanded to Corresponding Author: include international contexts. One of the major reasons Kristy L. Daniel, Department of Biology, Texas State University, 254 behind this expansion is the evolving need for international- Supple Science Building, 601 University Dr., San Marcos, TX 78666, USA. Email: email@example.com ization of higher education to promote students’ intercultural Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open further attention. This study was designed to exemplify a course curriculum, which helps to connect the classroom STEM-based ISL course and its outcomes on college knowledge to real-world application to improve students’ students. learning outcomes. Service-learning projects can promote both content and process knowledge by the application of classroom knowledge in a real-world setting (Bringle & Outcomes of Service-Learning Hatcher, 1999; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Katula & Threnhauser, There have been several outcomes from service-learning high- 1999). Service-learning activities place students in a real-life lighted in the literature including affective, behavior, and con- setting and help them to gain an authentic learning experience, tent (ABC) benefits. In addition, there are global awareness which is key to effective learning (Kiely, 2005). Students with outcomes that are more restricted to ISL experiences. diverse experiences at the college level are more likely to develop problem-solving skills, active thinking capacity, and a Affective outcomes. When students participate in service- desire to work at diverse geographical locations in the future learning, they can encounter a variety of affective responses (Brown et al., 2009; Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002). including anger, frustration, confusion, varying comfort lev- Among the different approaches suggested by educators to els, satisfaction (Welch, 1999). As such, service-learning can retain students in STEM education, exposure of students to encourage students to react to their emotional reactions and real-world applications of their STEM content knowledge is promote personal growth, such as the development of a per- thought to be very essential to generate and retain interest sonal identity and increased self-efficacy (Astin & Sax, among them (Brown et al., 2009, Davis & Finelli, 2007; NAS, 1998; Astin, Sax, & Avalos, 1999; Eyler & Giles, 1999; 2007; Pintrich & Zusho, 2002; Winter, 2007). Rockquemore & Schaffer, 2000). Some other affective out- comes associated with service-learning include enhanced ISL-specific outcomes. All the prior mentioned benefits associ- communication skills and leadership attitudes, and increased ated with domestic service-learning experiences also apply ability to work with others (Astin & Sax, 1998; Eyler & to ISL. However, there are some added benefits associated Giles, 1999; Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000). In addition, by with ISL experiences, which include development of aware- situating students in real-life scenarios and developing ser- ness across the globe, cross-cultural awareness, appreciation vice-learning curricula around social problems helps stu- for local culture and customs, and opportunity to experience dents to get an authentic learning experience along with the global diversity (Crabtree, 2008; Gillian & Young, 2009; elimination of negative stereotypes (Buch & Harden, 2011; Jacoby & Brown, 2009; Johnson, Johnson, & Shaney, 2008; Kiely, 2005; Potthoff et al., 2000). By providing students Maher, 2003; Nickols et al., 2013; Pagano & Roselle, 2009; with opportunities to interact with people of different ages, Plater et al., 2009; Sternberger et al., 2005; Tonkin, 2004). races, and social classes, such service-learning activities can Most important, because ISL helps to engage students in dif- help develop communication and problem-solving skills, ferent service activities at a foreign location, students get to which facilitates cultural and social understanding (Keen & immerse in different cultures, which enhances their cross- Keen, 1998; Moely, McFarland, et al., 2002). cultural awareness (Nickols et al., 2013; Sternberger et al., 2005). Considering these added benefits, ISL is gaining in Behavior outcomes. Research indicates that participating in popularity among educators. service-learning activity creates awareness among the stu- dents about the impact of human activities on the environ- Critical Reflection ment, and students learn how to behave more responsibly toward social issues (Astin & Sax, 1998; Eyler & Giles, Critical reflection is an essential component of both domestic 1999; Moely, McFarland, et al., 2002; Packer, 2009; Olsze- service-learning and ISL to meet all the learning objectives wski-Kubilius, 2009). Students are also seen to exhibit citi- (Ash & Clayton, 2009; Kiely, 2005; Parker-Gwin & Mabry, zenship skills and to develop a commitment to service in the 1998). Critical reflections while participating in a service- future as a result of participation in such service-learning learning experience help students conceptualize their experi- experiences (Buch & Harden, 2011; Packer, 2009; Payne, ences to meet the learning objectives of the course and help 2000; Potthoff et al., 2000). Exposure of students to commu- plan for future similar engagements (Ash & Clayton, 2009; nity services at the college level often leads to continued Rockquemore & Schaffer, 2000; Strage, 2000). But, random involvement after graduation (Astin et al., 1999). Such expe- reflections without any specific purpose are definitely not ben- riences make students more committed to their volunteering eficial in attaining learning goals. Reflections in applied learn- service activities (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Payne, 2000; Pot- ing pedagogies should be planned and designed in a way so thoff et al., 2000). that they meet the learning objectives and should be directed toward the context of study and purpose of research (Ash & Content outcomes. Besides the social and personal benefits, Clayton, 2009; Bringle & Hatcher, 1999; Eyler, 2002; Welch, service-learning experiences also have some academic bene- 1999). Guided reflection designs that include prompts or spe- fits. The higher education communities focus on developing a cific guidelines assigned by the educator for students’ Daniel and Mishra 3 Figure 1. Conceptual framework for service-learning according to Ash and Clayton (2009). journaling activities help in more purposeful reflection activities to which students contributed. Reflective practice is (Bringle & Hatcher, 1999; Kolb, 1984; Welch, 1999). critical of all service-learning components as it helps bridge Journaling activity, which helps students to reflect critically on students’ actions and thoughts toward expected learning gains their experiences, should be included in the curriculum to (Ash & Clayton, 2009; Eyler, Giles, & Schmeide, 1996). improve the effectiveness of a service-learning course (Parker- Effective reflection on activities, a key component of any ser- Gwin & Mabry, 1998). Another essential skill for learners, vice-learning experience, is considered to be a continuous pro- which is problem solving in new situations, is enhanced when cess and referred to as “the glue that holds service and learning students engage in explicit reflection activities in multiple set- together to provide educative experiences” (Eyler et al., 1996, tings (Eyler, 2002). Thus, critical reflection is the most impor- p. 16). Reflective practices involve engaging students to reflect tant part of service-learning projects as it helps to connect the on their experience through journals, which we accomplished components of the experience for maximizing learning gains. by using prompts based on the ABC model (Welch, 1999). These components are responsible for achieving learning goals, such as personal development, improved civic attitudes, and Contribution to the Literature improved content knowledge (see Figure 1). Given the interna- Even though extensive literature on addressing outcomes of tional context of the course we studied, we also accounted for domestic service-learning experiences is documented, very impacts from international firsthand experiences such as global little has been investigated with regard to ISL experiences understanding and awareness, communication across cultures (e.g., Tonkin, 2011); furthermore, there are even more lim- through direct participation, and valuing the diversity and ited studies associated with ISL in the STEM field. Our study experience of a new world (Plater et al., 2009). investigates the impacts of a STEM-based ISL course on col- lege student ABC and global awareness outcomes. We also Purpose included a longitudinal element to capture extended out- comes related to civic involvement and STEM retention. The purpose of this study was to measure student ABC and global awareness outcomes after participating in a STEM- based ISL course and impacts on long-term retention in Conceptual Framework STEM fields. We used the service-learning framework proposed by Ash and Specifically, we asked the following research questions: Clayton (2009) that highlights the main components of service- learning and expected learning goals to guide the design of our Research Question 1: What were students’ ABC out- ISL STEM course. The three main components of service- comes after participating in a STEM-based ISL course? learning include academic knowledge, relevant services, and a. In what ways did the service-learning activities reflective practices. The academic knowledge refers to the con- influence personal awareness? tent covered in the classroom; in our case, we focused on bio- b. How have students reported altering future engage- diversity and conservation ecology. The relevant services ment in service activities after their experience in include service-learning activities as a part of the course cur- the ISL? riculum. We partnered with four community partners, two c. What were students STEM learning gains after their domestic and two international, to provide service-learning experience in the ISL? 4 SAGE Open Research Question 2: What global awareness did stu- data on types and amount of litter that accumulated on a dents demonstrate after participating in a STEM-based nearby beach and help educate the public on the impacts of ISL course? pollution on local wildlife while providing suggestions to Research Question 3: How did the STEM-based ISL improve ecological-minded behaviors. experience influence STEM career retention? Data Sources and Analyses Research Design Data came from responses on the Civic Attitudes and Skills Questionnaire (CASQ) pre–postquestionnaire (Moely, Course Format Mercer, Ilustre, Miron, & McFarland, 2002), student journal Due to the nature of the international program, enrollment in entries captured during the course, and individual, semistruc- the ISL university course was limited to 12 students per trip tured interviews that we conducted 2 years after the course. offering. We included all enrolled participants (n = 16) in this The CASQ is a 45-item Likert-type questionnaire that study from two trips. The course included a semester-long, measures skills useful for civic endeavors, values related to local orientation in the Spring Semester followed by a 10-day civic engagement, and the likelihood of action in community international trip to Ireland in the following May. During the issues (Moely, Mercer, et al., 2002). We had students com- first offering, students (n = 12, six undergraduate and six plete this questionnaire prior to the orientation portion of the graduate students) participated in a series of service-learning course and immediately after returning from the international activities to supplement the course. During the second offer- trip. We ran a paired t test in search of significant gains in ing, students (n = 4, three undergraduate and one graduate awareness pre–postcourse. Unfortunately, there were not student) took part in a traditional style of the course with no enough students enrolled in the traditional course to be able service-learning component. We used the second group to to perform a comparative test between the two sections. make comparisons between content outcomes and STEM Students were required to keep a daily journal through- retention. out the course, reflecting upon their course experiences. The course content focused on environmental topics such After every course meeting, we provided three prompts for as global biodiversity and conservation. As a component of students to record their reflections about the experience: the course, the class worked with community partners locally Affect, Behavior, and Content (ABC; Welch, 1999). The and internationally to conduct biodiversity inventories, con- ABC prompts acted as a guide to facilitate the process of serve and create new habitat for native wildlife, and improve reflection and students could also expand beyond these in public literacy in this area. Community partners included the their responses, as they often did, particularly with regard local Audubon Chapter, Science Olympiad Organization, to global awareness. Sample prompts included the follow- Wildlife Film School, and Galway Atlantaquaria, the ing: describe your personal emotional reactions to course National Aquarium of Ireland. Students participated in four experiences, how did you act during the course activities or projects over the course, two local and two international. For how might you change your behaviors if you had to partici- the first project, students worked with the Audubon Society pate in a similar activity in the future, and what connections to conduct a coastal bird survey to gather information on bird can you identify between your experiences and course populations affected by a recent oil spill. They worked with content? the society to measure changes in birds returning to the area To measure the long-term impact of the course, we con- compared with numbers that had been collected prior to the ducted semistructured interviews (Patton, 2002) with each of spill. In addition, the students considered recommendations the participants 2 years after completing the course. We for habitat restoration and conservation policies for the area. asked students questions related to what they remembered For the second project, students worked with the Science about their course experiences, their ideas regarding com- Olympiad Organization to develop an event for middle munity service and current participation, global awareness, school students to learn about endangered, exotic, and extinct what role the course had on their choices and outlook, and species including the probable reasons for their status and content understanding. biodiversity impacts. As a part of this project, students devel- We undertook multiple coding cycles to analyze our qual- oped questions related to these issues and provided study itative data. First, we used a deductive approach to sort our materials to local middle school students to use when prepar- data according to the ABC classifications. Second, we used a ing for a state competition. Once students arrive in Ireland, line-by-line, inductive approach to assign descriptive codes they participated in a project with the Wildlife Film School to student responses in their journal entries and interviews. to build bird nest boxes and bat boxes as part of an ongoing Next, we condensed these codes into categories based on effort to provide new habitats for local wildlife. Finally, stu- similarities in descriptions. Then, we completed a second dents worked with the Galway Atlantaquaria to remove round of coding using the pattern coding method (Saldaña, debris along the beaches in Galway and restore the coastal 2013) to identify themes across data to answer our research habitats. As part of this last project, students helped gather questions. Daniel and Mishra 5 Figure 2. Student outcomes from participating in an ISL course. Note. ISL = international service-learning; STEM = science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. afterward. For example, students reported that creating new Findings structures providing habitat for birds and bats was much eas- We identified ABC, global awareness, and long-term STEM ier than they had anticipated and they felt satisfied that they retention outcomes of students who took part in a STEM- had been able to contribute to the local conservation need. In based course abroad (see Figure 2). We also compared stu- some cases (41%), students also reported that the experience dent outcomes across participant groups: graduate versus caused them to become frustrated, disappointed, or even undergraduate students and content and STEM retention dif- depressed that so little was being done by the community to ferences between participants who took part in ISL opportu- counter the issues of habitat destruction and species loss nities and those who did not. abroad. All the participants reported gratification after their experiences and were glad they were able to take part and give back to the communities impacted. Furthermore, all the Finding 1: ABC Outcomes participants liked being involved in the service-based course. Affective outcomes. We found that students’ affective out- For example, Cindy, a graduate student stated, comes varied based on the type and location of the service- learning activities that took place. For example, students I like giving back to the community. I think it is a way to become reported that they were more comfortable (58%) when taking a part of the community by being integrated into it. If we had part in local service-learning activities. Taking part in the another option for service course, I would do it again, particularly Science Olympiad event challenged students’ prior concep- if it was science-based. tions about the types of competitors who would participate in such an event. Students remarked that they expected to Students remarked how their involvement in the service- encounter nerds or dorks, but instead found they were learning activities helped them feel more comfortable with amazed by the diversity and number of competitors who their peers and became interested in contributing more to attended. Instead of meeting the preconceived stereotype, make sure all the group endeavors were successful. students noted that the Olympiad competitors were just nor- mal kids eager to learn more about science, and they found Behavior outcomes. There was a significant difference in stu- this to increase their excitement about the event. dents pre–post-CASQ scores (t = 3.442, p = .009) who com- Some students (33%) reported that they were intimidated pleted the service-learning activities indicating an overall and apprehensive about taking part in survey projects requir- increase in civic awareness. Although civic awareness is not ing them to draw upon technical identification skills, but in and of itself a behavior change, increased awareness can later reported that they enjoyed the activity and were happy be linked to increased behavior. We found that students in the that they were able to contribute to the project and improve ISL group readily reported that they planned to use their their confidence in their abilities. When students reflected newly learned skills they gained through the service-learning upon their ISL activities, they tended (54%) to report initial activities. For example, Richard, a graduate student stated, “I feelings of apprehension, frustration, and indifference but will be building many more bird and bat boxes when I get were positively surprised that they enjoyed the experience home, not only for my yard, but to share with friends and 6 SAGE Open family.” Future plans of action, such as this example, will years ago are still affecting our environment today.” And increase environmental conservation efforts and could also Joanne, a graduate student stated, help educate others on environmental issues. Students also I learned when we pollute we cause lack of diversity in the areas shared their future plans of educating others about the envi- such as the streams and everything that uses the water source. It ronmental issues and make people conscious about them. For was a disturbing image to see Salmon die off in the area because example, Kelly, an undergraduate student said, of something man caused. It really put into perspective how humans harm the world and constantly destroy animal’s habitat. I don’t know if I contributed anything at that time, but I feel like Change in the population of one species can have an impact on the experience changed me in a way that I can contribute or the balance of nature as a whole. make contributions going for future, like how to view the world or be conscious to not be wasteful. I was thinking on how to All the students, regardless of being involved in service- make people more conscious of their local environment and learning, had a unique experience of the biodiversity in local resources and not to be wasteful. I don’t know why I did not think of that before though. Ireland with regard to both plant and animal species. They had an opportunity to explore the natural environment on Both the undergraduate and graduate students reported their own, making predictions based on previous knowledge, that they were very likely to participate in STEM-based ser- and build new biology knowledge. Both groups learned vice in the future. However, undergraduate students did not about the biodiversity of Ireland, evident by Jessica, a gradu- provide well-defined plans for the future application of their ate student’s statement, course experiences whereas graduate students provided clear I really liked the natural landscapes and being able to visit those thought-out plans for the future application of service different places. The Burren, for example, has plants there that experiences. are typically found in different regions, like Arctic, Alpine, and After each service-learning activity, students commented Mediterranean plants. You don’t see all those type of plants in that they wished they had been able to get more involved one area, so it is kind of like a magical place where these plants with the project of continue their involvement beyond the co-exist together, whereas they shouldn’t be able to live the scope of the course. Many students (67%) remarked that they same place, but they do. were surprised about the outcomes of at least one of the activities and stated that they wished they would have taken Each student completed lists of at least 30 species they suc- more time to be prepared for what to expect beforehand— cessfully identified while in Ireland. through content or organization preparation (67%), equip- Likewise, all the students were able to identify poten- ment needs (33%), or proper attire (25%). Many students tial conservation ideas. However, students who did not (58%) stated they wished they had taken more time to inter- participate in service-learning activities provided ideas act with the group during the local activities, and their com- that were very superficial and not well thought out. For mitment to the group was observed during the ISL activities. example, Sophia, an undergraduate student who did not Whereas, during the ISL activities, students reported that partake in service-learning activities, stated we could they wished they had spent more time trying to learn more implement local coastal cleanup, create stricter regula- from the community partners (33%), and approached the tions for tourists, educate local communities and school- activities with a better attitude (33%) as many were tired children on the importance of conservation, discontinue from traveling. All the students stated that they had gotten the use of peat, and promote water conservation practices better with their actions over time and worked hard at accom- in hotels and tourist-heavy locations. Sophia did not elab- plishing the group goals. And, all the students remarked that orate on these policies or act upon any of her ideas other they would have liked to spend even more time focus on the than her reflection that, “we wandered pretty much wher- service-learning activities and community partnerships. ever we wanted, touched what we liked, disturbed what we pleased. I, personally, was not destructive, but are oth- Content outcomes. Both groups of students, those who took ers?” The students who participated in service-learning part in service-learning activities and those who did not, activities, provided much more detailed ideas on how to demonstrated content learning gains after the course. The implement conservation ideas with others. For example, main STEM topics that students reported developing content Richard proposed he could teach schoolchildren about knowledge on include endangered species, biodiversity, and conservation. environmental problems. Both groups of students were able to identify problems associated with habitat destruction after I would have classes to a trash pick-up around the school, the course. For example, both groups of students accurately categorize what we found, graph the amounts, and then use that discussed the environmental impacts of copper leaching information to target how we would approach a recycle, reuse, from Irish mines into the Avoca river. Wes, an undergraduate, reduce campaign around the school. We would have numbers to commented, “it was surprising to learn how things from 50 support what is being trashed improperly the most. Daniel and Mishra 7 Also, students that took part in service-learning activities of the course that topics discussed in class were relevant to were encouraged and excited to explore content beyond the the service activities.” requirements for the course. For example, Beth, an under- graduate student, described how the Science Olympiad event Finding 2: Global Awareness Outcomes prompted her to learn about Eastern Indigo Snakes and This course allowed students to compare environments from Gopher tortoises, two different geographical regions, one local and one of I did not know a lot about endangered species. However, I didn’t Ireland. Once students had firsthand experience of this inter- view this as a bad thing because it led me on sort of a knowledge national comparison, they increased comments about global scavenger hunt. I learned the Eastern Indigo Snake likes to live impacts. For example, David, an undergraduate student, in gopher tortoise holes and that interested me enough to read up stated, “I helped produce something that will hopefully on the tortoises. And I found that their burrows provide homes improve biodiversity, which has fallen by double digit num- for 360 other species of animals too! bers all around the world.” Likewise, Cindy noted how the firsthand experience recognizes the widespread nature of This excitement and additional effort was not as evident in conservation needs, “I can now say that I played a very outcomes from students who did not partake in service- small role in conservation efforts in Ireland. It really makes learning activities. you realize that the U.S. isn’t the only country suffering The purpose of engaging students in different service- from habitat degradation and a decrease in biodiversity.” learning activities was to teach them how community part- This experience gave students the opportunity to see the ners tried to solve conservation problems. Students issues brought forth in the course. Beth stated, “You always recognized this connection as evidenced by Cindy, “Beach hear about birds getting stuck in those plastic can holders cleanups were directly related to the ‘conservation helps and and turtles not being able to lay eggs because of trash.” But biodiversity’ course aspect. As we keep natural areas healthy, she had not really understood the impact this had on wildlife more organisms and species can survive, thus ensuring more until she saw impacted animals while working with commu- biodiversity.” Similarly, Joanne recognized that the activity nity partners. with the Wildlife Film School tries to resolve conservations Although, students involved with the service-learning regarding suitable habitat, “We built bat and bird boxes activities had substantially more interactions with the locals, today. By giving the animals more suitable locations to nest all students interacted with Irish citizens. The service-learn- roost we increase the likelihood that multiple species can use ing activities provided a common ground for communica- the environment the boxes are in.” tions related to course content. Kelly stated, Besides gaining new content knowledge, the students involved in service-learning activities also elaborated on The building of these boxes [bird & bat nest boxes] was kind of how they thought the course provided them with a platform an open door for talking about conservation issues. It helped like for hands-on application of content learned in the classroom. it was kind of a free flow of information between two different For instance, one of the aspects that students often empha- cultures as far as conservation was concerned. sized during the interviews was the real-world experience they gained during the ISL course. Some students also Still, all the students demonstrated growth in their global described how they could apply STEM knowledge learned in awareness by reflecting on cultural differences and prior other science classes through the service activities in this expectations. Cindy stated, course. For example, Joanne stated, I knew some of the stereotypes associated with the Ireland The building of bat boxes were what I have learned the most for culture but you haven’t really learned about some place until myself because, as I said, I have learned about bats in one of my you have been there. So, when we actually went there, we got a other Biology classes and that information helped but I didn’t better appreciation through the Irish culture and what they have realize until I actually made the bat boxes that we had to scrape gone through with the potato famine and their monoculture and scratch the inside of the boxes to make a texture such that practices. bats can cling to it. Students learned about the Irish culture and compared it with Students could see the connection between the content cov- U.S. culture, enhancing cross-cultural awareness. Joanne ered in the classroom and the service activities and appreci- observed, ated the fact that they were able to contribute to some extent in solving environmental problems while learning more Ireland was all about homemade food . . . In Ireland everything about course content. For example, Ann, an undergraduate is local; they grow it right here, so the fish comes from the river student stated, “The service-learning projects, to me, exem- nearby. So, I think that was the biggest difference from our plify the spirit of the course objectives: sharing knowledge of culture here in the US. I wish we had a similar culture in US to science, biology, through service activities. I liked the aspect help our local farmers. 8 SAGE Open Table 1. Overall Differences in Student Outcomes Based on Their Participation in Service-Learning Activities. Students who did not participate in service- Criteria Students who participated in service-learning activities learning activities Application of newly Readily reported plans to apply the skills newly learned Did not report to have learned any new skills learned hands-on skills through service-learning activities Implementation of Provided detailed practical ideas for helping with nature Provided superficial and not well thought-out conservation ideas conservation conservation ideas Exploration of content Service-learning activities encouraged effort to explore Lack of excitement and additional effort to knowledge beyond new content explore content beyond the scope of the course requirement course Long-term STEM retention Majority of students chose to pursue a STEM career Majority of students chose to abandon inspired by their firsthand experience of integrating STEM career because of the professionally science with community demanding nature of such jobs Note. STEM = science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. All the students valued communication and interaction with that focused on increasing public science literacy (e.g., sci- ence outreach director, science teacher, public health, gradu- people from different cultures as evidenced through journal ate research). Participants from the non-ISL group stated reflections and interview comments. For example, Zane, a they chose to abandon STEM career possibilities because the graduate student stated, professional demands for such career were too high and they It [immersing in different cultures] helps you to broaden yourself wanted to focus on more socially fulfilling jobs, with the as a person. It helps you understand how other people in the exception of one participant who chose to teach science. world think, how they look upon things, and their perception of Overall, we found that students showed differences in their the world. Also, I think to reach your full potential as a person, learning outcomes based on the opportunity they had for par- you need to understand other people because it makes a ticipating in service-learning activities (see Table 1). These difference, definitely a huge difference as the globe is getting differences indicated a positive trend toward learning needed smaller. I am glad I got this opportunity through this course. skills and content for STEM practice as well as pursuing a STEM career post experience. Similarly, Karen, an undergraduate student, stated, “The experience definitely helped me to be more open minded, Discussion understanding of other people while working with them as this was my first international experience working with peo- Rubin and Matthews (2013) have extrapolated learning out- ple of different culture.” For nine of the 16 students who par- comes from study abroad experiences to make predictions ticipated in the two courses, this was the first international about potential outcomes of students from ISL courses. exposure, and for all the 12 students who participated in the Although these conclusions are helpful, they may not repre- service-learning activities, this was their first experience as a sent actual learning outcomes, hence the call to document part of ISL course. student learning in ISL courses. In our study, although small in scope due to the nature of international field courses, we have been able to document actual outcomes from students Finding 3: Long-Term STEM Retention in a STEM-based ISL course. Still, as ISL program can be All the students who participated in the course had provided cost prohibitive for some students, we expect that domestic initial intentions of pursuing STEM-related careers. For service-learning courses could be modified to incorporate example, Wes stated, “I would love to come back and work element of international perspectives and engage students in after I graduate and maybe one day become the head biolo- discussions about the global problems, or even contribute to gist so that I can help implement new ways to protect our international efforts even if they cannot physically travel to national wildlife and educate a bigger population about it.” other locations, to provide them with a similar learning expe- He is now pursuing a STEM graduate degree. After follow- rience (Shmaefsky & Letargo, 2007). ing up with each of the students, we found that 11 of the 16 Service-learning can promote community building within participants were pursuing a STEM career or graduate school a course. This in turn, promotes student accountability to con- assistantship (10 of the 12 from the ISL group and one of the tribute to group projects and encourages higher rates of effort four from the non-ISL group). Upon further probing, the par- associated with such involvement. Students do not want to let ticipants from the ISL group stated that seeing firsthand how down their peers or community partners. Also, as students to integrate science with community involvement influenced take an active part in STEM-based service projects with com- their career paths, given that many of them pursued careers munity partners and see tangible outcomes, they show high Daniel and Mishra 9 levels of desire to devote more time to those efforts. Reflective even promoted students to seek out more information beyond practice facilitates considerations of student behavior (Bringle course content goals. However, this can hold true only if & Hatcher, 1999; Kolb, 1984; Parker-Gwin & Mabry, 1998; there is careful consideration given to aligning community Welch, 1999). Through continued service-learning interac- partners and service-learning activities with course content tions, students improve confidence, behavior, and efficient goals. When these are aligned, students appreciated the real- contribution. Service-learning provides students with real- world application of the content knowledge, which is an world application and experiences, which in turn promotes essential requirement for any experiential pedagogy (Pintrich thinking about detailed ideas for future actions. It is already & Zusho, 2002; Winter, 2007). documented that students involved in service-learning are more motivated to share their experience with others in future Declaration of Conflicting Interests (Buch & Harden, 2011; Packer, 2009). And, we know that The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect students’ future intentions of engaging in service activities to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. will likely encourage more individuals to engage in STEM- based service-learning, which can lead to a developed sense Funding of intercultural awareness among a bigger population (Eyler The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for & Giles, 1999; Payne, 2000; Potthoff et al., 2000). Thus, with the research and/or authorship of this article: This work was sup- significant increases in civic awareness and more thorough ported by Learn and Serve America: Mississippi Service Learning idea as options to pursue, we hope that this results in the fol- Program. low through of future civic involvement, but this aspect war- rants further exploration. References Immersing students in a different culture helps to broaden Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). 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SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: Mar 6, 2017
Keywords: service-learning; international partnerships; ABC reflections; civic awareness; STEM understanding
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