The Impact of Participation in a Service-learning Program on University Students' Motivation for Learning Japanese
2019-05-15T19:48:41Z (GMT) by
Service-learning is an organized volunteer activity in which learners serve the community while utilizing and enhancing their own skills, thus benefiting both the learners and the community. Studies have shown that students gain various benefits from participating in a service-learning activity, especially in their academic skills and civic growth through continued reflections (Eyler, Giles, & Braxton, 1997; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Billig, 2000; Grassi et al., 2004; Steinberg, Bringle, & Williams, 2010), often increasing their motivation to learn the related subject (Steinberg et al., 2010). Service-learning has been implemented in foreign language courses in the United States, especially Spanish (Barreneche & Ramos-Flores, 2013). However, service-learning literature on Japanese as a foreign language is limited.
The researcher founded a service-learning program in the Japanese language. In the program, the university students enrolled in intermediate- or higher-level Japanese courses help Japanese children with their schoolwork as volunteer tutors. The researcher conducted a qualitative case study on four of the student-tutors to examine the program's potential benefits to maintain and enhance the student-tutors' various motivations toward learning Japanese. The Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) (Clary, Snyder, & Ridge, 1998) was used as an analysis scheme, which reports six most commonly found functions, or varying motivations, for participating in a volunteer activity. The student-tutors indicated five out of the six VFI functions, showing a connection between their service-learning experience and their personal growth. They built strong connections with the Japanese community and kept their motivation to improve their Japanese skills to better help the children. It is hoped that the present research will contribute to providing an example of Japanese service-learning in the U.S.