Using personal narratives to understand student learning: The pragmatics of phenomenology

Eric Lee Buschlen, Jon R Reusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is assumed that students who engage in long-term service projects or service learning endeavors are transformed, but how do we really know that and how can we share that knowledge with the larger community? The answer is through structured, qualitative research. This case study promotes the use of pre-printed, prompt-based journals as a means to collect information from students before, during, and after a service-learning course or a weeklong service project. This case study article will focus on student narratives and how the implementation of a phenomenological methodology allows for a deeper understanding of the shared learning experience. For this project, the journal prompts were based on and evaluated through the Social Change Model of Leadership (HERI, 1996). However, the authors argue that finding an appropriate theoretical model is part of the research design and will vary by location and sample. This methodology, if implemented at other colleges and universities, should help to identify the depth of student learning during service endeavors. The goal of this paper is to promote the addition of the student voice and qualitative methods to compliment the more often reported quantitative outcomes found within similar service projects. While this method would work well with both service-learning courses and weeklong service programs, this article will fully examine the application relative to a weeklong service program.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10
JournalSage Research Methods Cases
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


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