Department of Educational Administration


Document Type


Date of this Version



Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Fall 2009, pp. 17-32


Copyright 2009 O’Meara and Niehaus


Many researchers have explored faculty engagement in service-learning. However, scholarship rarely considers ways in which the discourses used by faculty to describe service-learning—the stories they tell about what it is they are doing and why—construct images of subject positions, problems, and solutions that inform our beliefs about service-learning and our practice. The purpose of this study was to understand the dominant discourses used by faculty to explain service-learning. The nomination files of 109 exemplary faculty nominated for the Thomas Ehrlich Award were analyzed. Findings indicate that faculty use four dominant discourses regarding the purposes and significance of service-learning: (a) a model of teaching and learning; (b) an expression of personal identity; (c) an expression of institutional context and mission; or (d) or embedded in a specific community partnership. These findings affirm those of previous studies regarding faculty attraction to and motivation for involvement in service-learning, but also point to continuing challenges in institutionalizing service-learning in higher education.