Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Service-learning helps students experience the practical applications of learning to write well; it also offers opportunities for students to develop a sense of civic responsibility. Although service-learning is growing in popularity, this pedagogy is not prevalent in English departments. Additionally, service-learning courses across all disciplines typically do not empower students to make their own project decisions. Given these tendencies, it is useful to consider whether service-learning is an effective pedagogy for writing, whether students should be designing their own projects, and what writing instructors could do to facilitate students' growth as writers while completing projects in the community. This is a qualitative case study, incorporating quantitative data, of two technical writing courses. I reviewed the students' answers to surveys developed for this research, plus their course evaluations, individual reflective writing, and collaborative project documents, and then I compiled and collated the students' references to what they were learning and what they were struggling with. The references fall within the following themes: student decision-making; the role of the instructor; the rhetorical tenets of audience and purpose; service; collaboration with peers and community members; written expression; and professionalism and motivation. Relying upon the students' comments in regard to these themes, I suggest that service-learning can help students become invested in the outcome of their written expression, motivating them to learn how to address audience and purpose through strong writing. Students learn to work collaboratively and develop their own individual voices as they discover, reflect upon, and express their ideas and shared knowledge. Instructors should ask students to design their own projects, allowing them to engage with and learn how to contribute to the community: through self-directed experiential projects, students become more likely to understand the power of writing and to transfer their new knowledge to later situations. I conclude with a discussion of the need for targeted research and suggestions for teaching writing through community-based pedagogy to enhance civic engagement.
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