Understanding the Impact of Service Learning on Writing Programs
I currently serve as co-investigator of a yearlong empirical assessment of service learning in one Midwestern university’s first year writing program. Although scholars within rhetoric and composition have called for more empirical research on service learning (Bacon 2001), most assessments have been developed externally to our field, and paint broad brush strokes of its effects on student engagement. Giles and Eyler have argued that “convincing evidence of the importance of service learning to subject matter learning is still lacking” (67). Edward Zlotkowski has advised university programs to develop discipline-specific assessments of service learning pedagogies. In response, we designed a yearlong empirical study of one English department’s shift to service learning and its impact on students’ and instructors’ writing ability, rhetorical awareness, and other writing-specific factors. Our study provides one model for assessing the programmatic outcomes of service learning at multiple levels, including student and instructor perspectives.