Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Dissertation


The purpose of this study was to determine the type of reflection students are using in their final reflection stories to see if there was evidence of reflection in relation to authentic learning. Assignments from four Human Relations courses that included a community engagement learning component provided the data for a qualitative content analysis to determine authentic learning through the reflective writing assignments. Levels of reflection outlined in Kember, McKay, Sinclair, and Wong’s (2008) four category scheme for coding and assessing the level of reflection was applied to students’ written work. The student’s final essay written about their intergenerational community engagement experience provided insight regarding student learning outcomes, benefits from community relationships, and ways in which Iowa state standards for teacher preparation in Human Relations were addressed. Findings suggest that the majority of students responded to Community Engagement Learning Assignments without reflection. However, students who are able to write at higher levels of reflection are more likely to show evidence of Authentic Learning.

The study involved 96 undergraduate students during the spring 2016 semester. Who were enrolled in four sections of the Human Relations course from the College of Education at a Midwestern comprehensive university. Each course section included in this study had community engagement learning components, including: guest speakers (someone you should know), reflections from course readings, videos, and seven weekly meetings with elderly seniors from the community (i.e. “senior partner”). A content analysis of the 96 essays was conducted utilizing a computer assisted qualitative data analysis platform called Dedoose. It was found that students who wrote at the lowest level of reflection, non-reflectors, were not authentic learners. Community Engagement Learning Experiences (CELE) need to provide opportunities for students to have a change in perspective and/or fundamental beliefs in order to become authentic learners. Providing students with definitions and examples of the various levels of reflection and linking the level of reflection to grades may increase the demonstration of students’ ability to be critical reflectors. Providing students with multiple opportunities to complete Community Engagement Learning Assignments (CELA) and opportunities to discuss the assignments during class time will allow the instructor to understand the level that students are reflecting. The results of this study have continued to build the body of knowledge of how the type of student reflection relates to students’ authentic learning. Instructors must understand the levels of reflection and have knowledge of how to provide opportunities for students to practice reflection with feedback. Instructors need support and opportunities to develop and test a variety of reflection assignments directly connected to community engagement experiences. Instructors need additional preparation time to develop partnerships that are well planned and are meeting the course learning objectives while providing support to meet the diverse needs within the partnership. Empirical studies are important to provide the opportunity for community engagement learning experiences to gain credibility in academia.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services

First Advisor

Kathleen Scholl

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (156 pages)



Available for download on Friday, June 22, 2108