"Out of My Comfort Zone": Understanding the Impact of a Service-Learning Experience in Rural El Salvador
This qualitative case study was designed to explore the impact of a two-week service-learning experience in rural El Salvador on students' perceptions of its impact on them personally, professionally and ┬átheir global awareness.┬á Students stayed in an economically impoverished village in rural El Salvador and worked on projects that promoted education for children in the village. ┬áParticipants included 15 graduate and undergraduate students; 13 from the College of Education of a large university in the northeastern part of the United States. Multiple data sources were used to understand these impacts including: open-ended interviews conducted two to four months after the trip; field notes from participant observations in large and small group activities, group reflections; and informal incidents and conversations; review of documents related to the class (student journals; student final papers), and daily activity and health logs.
┬á┬á While the initial process of adjustment was difficult for some students, all students felt that their participation in this experience had an important, positive impact on them.┬á Data indicated that this impact occurred in all three major areas addressed in this study, including: personal (e.g. sense of appreciation, gaining perspective, rethinking consumption, clarifying values, and learning they ΓÇ£could do itΓÇ¥/self-efficacy, professional (affirming career choices, ability to work with Latino children and families; improving professional skills) and global awareness (e.g. perspectives on poverty and social justice, views of immigration, understanding of the world).┬á Findings will be discussed in terms of exant literature related to the impact of short-term service experiences.
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