Teachers' perceptions of service-learning: K-12 school community partnership development in Texas schools
Bludau, Jo Ann
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At the conclusion of a three-year grant cycle (2003-2006), educators and administrators as well as the general public in the state of Texas are questioning whether or not service-learning is indeed a powerful means of preparing students to become more caring and responsible parents and citizens. This study was designed to measure teachers? perceived effectiveness of service-learning. The Texas Center for Service- Learning provided a list of districts participating in the K-12 School-Community Partnership Grant Project and contact information for district grant coordinators. Coordinators in participating districts were then contacted by phone and e-mail to submit names and contact information for teachers participating in the service-learning program. Teachers whose districts are located in central and southeast Texas were interviewed during the spring 2006 on their campuses, and teachers from more remote parts of Texas were interviewed in Austin during the Summer 2006 Institute. The sample that was used in this study includes six elementary, four middle, and two high school teachers who have been involved in the development and implementation of service-learning programs in their districts. In addition to targeting teachers at the elementary and middle school level, both male and female service-learning teachers were interviewed as well as teachers who also assumed the role as campus and/or district service-learning coordinator. Data collected from the service-learning teachers interviewed was analyzed to generate a composite picture of teachers? perceptions and attitudes toward servicelearning. Once interviews were completed, data were transcribed, coded for audit trail purposes, printed onto separate sheets, and those sheets that apparently related to the same content were categorized into provisional categories. Five important salient themes emerged as conclusions of the study. The first conclusion relates to service-learning work and competing priorities. The second conclusion illustrates service-learning as having a higher purpose for the teachers who have chosen to become involved in it. The third conclusion was reached by examining the role of grant funding. The fourth conclusion was drawn from situations where teachers and communities are promoting a culture of service, and the fifth and final conclusion stresses the importance of teacher leadership in the success of servicelearning programs.