Students' reflections of service-learning in agricultural communications
Hefley, Marie N.
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Research has found that many students in higher education are not being equipped in the classroom to handle future job responsibilities and competencies. In an effort to provide a more effective learning experience for students, service-learning has emerged as a successful teaching strategy across many educational disciplines. Both previous and current agricultural communications coursework has been designed to provide a theory of communication application; however, it is inhibiting students’ ability to understand issues relevant to the industry that are best found in hands-on, real-world experiences. Within agricultural communications, service-learning has been utilized as a pedagogy, but little research has been conducted to evaluate the use of service-learning in the agricultural communications curriculum. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of students who completed service-learning projects in two agricultural communications courses during two separate semesters (Fall 2010 and Spring 2011) at a southwestern university. A qualitative case study design was used to collect data from 79 students related to their opinions of the service-learning experience, their interactions with their clients, and their evaluation of the course content. Students reported a positive attitude about the service-learning experience; students improved upon their communication skills and enjoyed the hands-on experience that is applicable to their future in communications. Students also said they learned how to respect other’s opinions and work in a group environment, and improved upon their leadership skills. Student’s also reported positive feelings about the course content, but recommended the instructor to place more emphasis on interviewing techniques, how to develop student-client relationships, and best practices for interacting with clients. Overall, the results of this study indicate students greatly benefited from working with a client on a service-learning project in an agricultural communications course and reflecting on the service; however, changes should be made to improve future integration of service in the course curriculum. This research concluded that there is a need for service-learning in other agricultural communications courses, but further research should be done to gain a deeper understanding of student perspectives.