Student reflections on the attainment of competencies in a community service-learning module in Human Movement Science
Coetzee, Brenda Audrey
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The mission of the University of the Free State (UFS, 2010) is the pursuit of scholarship as embodied in the creation, integration, application and transmission of knowledge. This pursuit is acknowledged by promoting, among other things, community service and the development of the total student as part of the University’s academic culture. One of the reasons for having students participate in community service-learning (CSL) modules is that these modules address two components of the University’s mission: community service and the development of the total student. This links with the required transformation stipulated in the White Paper on the Transformation of Higher Education of 1997 (SA, 1997: 7–8). Many claims have been made as to the benefits students derive from participation in CSL modules (Astin & Sax, 1998; Bringle & Hatcher, 1996; Furco, 2002). These benefits can be divided into personal, interpersonal, academic and social benefits. Personal benefits include self-efficacy, self-knowledge, personal development (Simons & Cleary, 2006) as well as improved leadership skills, relationship skills and the definition of personal strengths and weaknesses (Mouton & Wildschut, 2005). Interpersonal benefits include interpersonal development, problem-solving skills (Simons & Cleary, 2006), working more effectively with others (Furco, 2002), awareness of cultural differences and awareness of cultural stereotypes (Mouton & Wildschut, 2005). Academic benefits include academic development, a better appreciation of academic work (Furco, 2002), the application of theory that improves skills such as critical observation, analysis and application (Winfield, 2005), as well as an increased understanding of the theoretical aspects (Erasmus & Jaftha, 2005). Social benefits include involvement in the community (Furco, 2002) and an increased awareness of community life and challenges (Erasmus & Jaftha, 2005). The literature highlights the diverse benefits of participating in CSL modules. However, the question arises whether the benefits derived are related to the competencies required by a person entering the recreation industry. The purpose of the study was to determine which competencies, if any, as seen from the students’ perspective, increased by participating in the CSL module offered by the Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences at the University of the Free State. The research was undertaken from a phenomenological viewpoint. Through a literature and job analysis study the competencies required in the recreation industry were identified. It was then determined what competencies students thought they would be able to gain by doing the module. Then the competencies that students perceived to have gained during the CSL module were obtained through student reflections. This data was then compared to the literature and job analysis information to determine how the perceived competencies gained by students through the CSL module relate to the competencies needed by a recreation specialist. Multimethod strategies of data collection were used. A literature study and a web search were undertaken to determine the required competencies. The nominal group technique (NGT) was used to determine students’ perceptions of competencies required. Structured and unstructured reflection and the NGT of interviewing were employed to determine the perceived gain of competencies. With regard to the competencies identified (through literature, job descriptions and student perceptions) that would be required in the recreation industry, results showed that students did indeed feel that their competencies increased. Four main themes were identified: communication, management skills, group dynamics and cultural diversity and self-evaluation. The findings indicate that CSL should be considered by lecturers in recreation as a pedagogical tool to impart competencies that are difficult, if not impossible, to teach to students in the normal classroom setup. When selecting CSL as an educational mode during the planning and conceptualisation of the module, it should be ensured that the module is designed in such a way that it imparts specific competencies that are required in the recreation industry.