Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Thesis


Service learning -- Iowa; Critical thinking in adolescence -- Iowa; Experiential learning; Student volunteers in social service;


Education reform is a topic that has been around for a long time. With the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002, states set out to set high standards for students. While setting high standards is a worthwhile goal, the method to reach those high standards has not been mandated. This research study sought to determine if exposing students to a service-learning project would increase reflective thinking, communication, and social interaction skills.

The questions that guided this study were:

1. Does engagement in a service-learning project impact the individual's development of reflective thinking? If so, what is that impact?

2. Does engagement in a service-learning project impact the individual's development of communication skills? If so, what is that impact?

3. Does engagement in a service-learning project impact the individual's social interaction skills? If so, how?

Data was collected using a variety of sources, including written reflective journal entries, interviews, and observations. The service-learning project was divided into three phases -- Planning, Implementation, and Concluding -- and data was collected from each of the phases to determine the impact the project had on reflective thinking, communication, and social skills.

Data was analyzed using qualitative research methods in which categories and themes were identified. The three data sources served to triangulate the information from the data and to maintain the reliability of the findings.

The analysis and interpretation of the data suggests that students involved in a service-learning project do show gains in the consistency of their reflective thinking skills and communication skills. The data did not show significant changes to social interaction skills, although many students commented that they enjoyed service-learning and would like to continue working with their organizations. Data also suggested that the improvements in reflective thinking may have been a result of allowing students to choose their project rather than assigning a project to them. Students wrote more reflective journal entries when they were passionate about their actions than when they felt as though they just had to write something.

More research is needed to identify the overall benefits of utilizing service-learning in individual classrooms at the high school level.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Lynn Ethan Nielsen


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Date Original


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1 PDF file (xv, 273 pages)



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