Title

Service-Learning In Composition and Public and Private Learning: A Dual Study of "Participation"

Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Julie Lindquist

Advisor Department

English

Abstract

How might the verbal performances produced within a particular service-learning course design--particularly students' ethnographic fieldnotes, written responses to text, classroom conversations, interviews, and observed dialogue at the point of server/served interface--inform the notions of public and private spaces? Further, to what extent do such performances transfer to larger composition pedagogical milieux? This manuscript relates the account of a qualitative exploration of service-learning and positionality within public and private spheres that sought to answer these questions. Its intent is to draw parallels between participatory learning generated within university-sponsored service and the positionality inherent in writing theories and pedagogies. Using qualitative methods of research, I investigated two composition classes, identical in conception, pedagogical stance, and syllabus, conducted at a private college and a public university (William Carey College, a small, private, Baptist college and the University of Southern Mississippi, a large, state institution). Interpretation of the data gathered from both institutions critically evaluates and refines service-learning models within composition, problematizes the terms "public" and "private" in useful ways, especially as they relate to public and private educational institutions, and informs larger issues of composition as a discipline of theory. My initial findings indicated that the students at the private college employed a rubric interpretive framework--essentially private--while the state university students employed a heuristic framework, which is essentially public. However, a deeper analysis through the theoretical lens of Lave and Wenger's Legitimate Peripheral Participation shows that both private and public interpretations manifested in both student populations under study. I situate my text within two current topics in modern composition discussions (1) the pedagogy of service-learning, a proven teaching method ripe for critical interrogation and undergoing a tremendous shift at the moment and (2) the ongoing journal conversations of Composition's relationship to the notions of "public" and "private" (in various manifestations of those terms), a dialogue beginning with classical rhetoricians' debate over the role of invention, and appearing in the 20th century as debates about striking the proper balance between writing theory and practice.