The benefits of study abroad programs in U.S. higher education are well documented. Lewis and Niesenbaum (2005) concluded that incorporating a service-learning component can greatly enhance a short-term study abroad program for the participant.
The purpose of the paper is to document the preliminary results from an on-going study to determine the benefits of incorporating a service-learning component into a study abroad program. A qualitative, rather than quantitative approach was used in the evaluation process. The research involves a course in community-based ecotourism for landscape architecture students from Texas Tech University. It includes three weeks of travel and service-learning projects for rural Mayan villages. Students kept journals as their service-learning reflection activity that were analyzed utilizing the qualitative techniques described by Boyd, et al (2006) to determine themes of students’ interest or concern. The writing was further analyzed within The Taxonomy of the Affective Domain (Krathwohl, 1964) to document the level at which the students were reflecting on their experience.
The results indicate an increased level of affective learning by most students, which correlate closely with those of Lewis and Niesenbaum (2005) who found that linking community- based experiences with a study abroad curriculum enhances learning. Lewis and Niesenbaum also reference studies that indicate reasons why many students do not study abroad, including financial constraints and academic requirements. These concerns are echoed by the authors’ interviews and discussions with students and colleagues. Therefore, students can receive similar benefits from a short-term setting who are unable to participate in long-term programs.
Keywords: Community-Based Ecotourism, Service Learning, Study Abroad, Mexico, Landscape Architecture