Narratives of Experiential Learning: Students’ Engagement in a Physical Activity-Based Service-Learning Course

in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education
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  • 1 Adelphi University
  • | 2 San Francisco State University
  • | 3 University of Massachusetts
  • | 4 Michigan State University
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Three undergraduate students’ experiences in a physical activity-based service learning course are chronicled using narrative inquiry.


Data collection included demographics questionnaires, pre- and postservice interviews, reflection journals, postservice written reflections, and participant observations. The data were analyzed with comprehensive deductive and inductive analysis procedures, along with the creation of detailed narratives summarizing students’ individual experiences and outcomes.


Results revealed student growth and development, including leadership development, improved interpersonal skills, increased knowledge of social justice issues, and enhanced self-understanding. However, the number, depth, and complexity of these outcomes varied significantly, which was largely explained by individual variables (e.g., interest in learning, level of effort, degree of adaptability).


These findings highlight the opportunity for course instructors to lead reflective activities before and during the service-learning experience, along with providing individualized guidance and feedback on students’ learning, effort, and adaptability throughout the service-learning course.

Whitley is with the Department of Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education and Sport Management, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY. Walsh is with the Department of Kinesiology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. Hayden is with the School Counseling Program and Counseling Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA. Gould is with the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

Address author correspondence to Meredith Whitley at
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