Service Learning and Adult Students: Implications for Academic Achievement and Student-Faculty Interactions
LeBeau, Jennifer Elizabeth
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One challenge facing higher education today is the retention of degree-seeking adult students over the age of 25. Adult students have different ways of learning and gaining meaning from their college experience and often hold multiple roles that impact their decisions to persist or depart. Institutions that can find ways to academically integrate adult students and help them feel connected to their learning experience and to the university are more successful in retaining adult students through graduation. Service learning is a pedagogical practice that engages students in the learning experience through reflection and contextualization in a community setting. Yet, little is known about how service learning affects adult students. The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the effects of service learning on adult students. The study uses an ex-post facto design to analyze archival data from the 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 administrations of the National Survey of Student Engagement at Washington State University- Pullman. Results of a Factorial Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) suggest that service learning participation alone does not significantly affect adult student GPA, but that service learning participation does significantly affect adult student-faculty interactions when age group, race group, and sex are not considered. More detailed analyses suggest that service learning participation influences both adult student GPA and adult student-faculty interactions when interactions between service learning participation, age group, race group, and sex are considered. Despite small effect sizes that limit interpretation of the findings, the study offers insight into adult student success by offering empirical evidence to support positive outcomes of service learning as a means of student engagement for adult students. The results are discussed in reference to the ways in which student engagement is linked to adult student academic integration, achievement, and success. The dissertation concludes with recommendations for adult students, faculty, and administrators as well as directions for future research.
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