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Telling our service-learning story: Instructor perspectives on service-learning in the leadership classroom

Marianne Lorensen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This phenomenological study examined the experiences of ten college instructors who use service-learning in the undergraduate leadership classroom. Since leadership is often a service-learning outcome for students (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005), service-learning is regarded by many instructors as an appropriate pedagogical approach in leadership classes (Rama, Ravenscroft, Wolcott, & Zlotkowski, 2000; Zlotkowski, 1996). Thus, the focus on instructors of undergraduate leadership courses. The current study employed a phenomenological approach in order to deeply explore instructor experiences. The goal of this exploration was that instructor experiences and the meaning they make from those experiences—their perspectives—will be better understood. The bulk of research on service-learning to date has focused on student outcomes and experiences (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). The important role played by faculty is acknowledged but not well explored. Knowing that the decisions made by instructors about the use (or not) of service-learning and the way in which it is approached can impact student outcomes and experiences, it is important to better understand the experiences of instructors. Understanding instructor experiences with service-learning, and the meaning they make from those experiences, can shed light on the decisions instructors make about whether to use service-learning, what kinds of service-learning strategies to use, and what expectations they have for the outcomes of service-learning relative to their classes and students. Findings from this study indicate that the experiences of leadership educators relative to service learning are closely linked to their perspectives on leadership and to the experiences of their students. Ultimately, instructors who use service-learning to help students learn about leadership find that they themselves gain leadership experiences and their own ideas about leadership are impacted.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Lorensen, Marianne, "Telling our service-learning story: Instructor perspectives on service-learning in the leadership classroom" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3642803.