Utilizing Service Learning in Master of Higher Education Programs

MaryBeth Walpole, Felicia Crockett
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 3  •  2018  •  pp. 025-040

Service Learning is not used in graduate education to the extent it is in un-dergraduate education. This paper utilizes a developmental evaluation methodological approach and a strategic partnership conceptual framework in examining a service learning course in which higher education master students gain valuable experience they can use in their careers while assisting high school students as they apply to college.

Little research has been done on service learning at the graduate level. Moreover, although service learning is growing on campuses, master of higher education students may not have experience with it. Additionally, gaps in college access by socioeconomic status and race continue to exist, yet little research has been done on how service recipients experience service learning. This paper evaluates a service learning course and addresses the service recipients who were high school students at the time and the experiences of graduate students who were enrolled in the course. The research questions are the following. To what extent do high school recipients report an increase in college application behaviors from the beginning to the end of the service learning experience? How do high school recipients describe their experiences with the graduate students? How do Master of Higher Education students describe their knowledge of the college admission process as a result of their experiences with service learning? How do they describe their experiences with service learning? What skills, if any, do they report improved as a result of the service learning experience?

The paper uses developmental program evaluation methodological ap-proach, and data collection strategies include survey responses and inter-views with former high school students as well as document analysis of former graduate students’ reflective essays and interviews with them.

Little is documented regarding graduate student experiences with service learning, particularly Higher Education master programs. Additionally, little research exists on service recipients experiences.

The service learning course was helpful to the high school students’ college application process, and students reported increases in college application behaviors as a result of the service learning project. The course also strengthened the higher education master students’ communication skills, interpersonal skills, and awareness of diversity and equity issues.

Service learning experiences can be utilized to strengthen higher education master students’ skills, and detailed information regarding the process of creating a service learning course are provided in the paper.

The paper recommends additional research on service learning in graduate programs and additional research on the experiences of service recipients and community partners.

This paper impacts master students who plan to work on college campuses and strengthen their skills in several areas that should positively affect the future students with whom they work. Additionally, the course resulted in high school students reporting increased college application behaviors, such as taking admission tests, seeking letters of recommendation, and writing essays, and may increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds who successfully enroll in college.

Additional research on service learning in graduate programs and additional research on the experiences of service learning recipients should follow this study.

service learning, college admission, graduate students
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