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Assessing Learning in Service-Learning Courses Through Critical Reflection

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The purpose of this study was to describe and examine a model for assessing student learning through reflection in service-learning courses using independent ratings. This assessment model utilizes a course-embedded process to frame, facilitate, support, and assess students’ depth of learning and critical thinking. Student reflection products in two service-learning courses (a freshman course and an upper-level course) at a public university were examined for: depth of academic, personal, and civic learning and level of critical thinking at Time 1 (T1) and Time 2 (T2). Depth of learning and levels of critical thinking between freshmen and upperclassmen were also compared. Results suggest that the DEAL Model and associated rubrics were useful in documenting student learning. Students could identify, describe, and apply their learning. However, they had difficulty evaluating their learning and thinking critically. There was some enhancement in depth of learning and critical thinking over time with upperclassmen achieving greater depth of learning and higher levels of critical thinking in some areas. Findings confirm the need for further research to identify additional tools to measure and assess improvements in deep leaning and critical thinking through reflection in service-learning courses; testing the DEAL Model with a larger sample; and providing on-going instructional support to faculty who are using the DEAL Model in their classes.
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