Details of Thesis

Title The Effect of Participation in School-Facilitated Community Service Programmes on Students’ Self-Esteem, Sense of Community Engagement and Attitudes to Christianity.
Author Reed, Luke Terrence
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2006
Abstract Increasingly, student orientated service outreach programmes (community service) are being incorporated into the broad curriculum of Australian High Schools. The assumption made is that such programmes have tangible benefits for students, the community and the schools themselves. Schools that operate out of a Christian paradigm have the added incentive of seeking to assist students give personal expression to religious commitment through the service of others. This study tests the assumption that participation in community service or service outreach activities has positive benefits for the students involved. It explores the effect that student involvement in school-facilitated community service programmes has on three personal domains; self-esteem, sense of engagement with community, and attitude to Christianity. This is a quantitative study utilising a questionnaire instrument to collect data from participants. The questionnaire is a compilation of three pre-existing and previously validated instruments, each of which focus on one of the three research areas. Combined, they provide 74 items which are answered using a Likert scale with response choices ranging along a six point continuum from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. The sample consists of a total of 225 participants drawn from students across years 10 to 12 from five Catholic High Schools in the Brisbane metropolitan area. All of these schools have single sex enrolment. Male and female participants are equally represented in the sample. In total, 80% of the sample participated in their school’s community service/service outreach programme. Information related to students’ community service involvement, the type of service undertaken, the duration of such service, and prior community service experience, was also collected from participants. No treatment is being introduced or manipulated in this study; rather, the research examines ‘between-participant’ and ‘within-sample’ differences associated with students’ participation (or non-participation) in existing community service/service outreach programmes in their schools. As such, the research is ex post factor in nature. Initial confirmatory factor analysis is undertaken to validate the integrity of the combined instrument. This is followed by a Cronbach’s alpha reliability study of the 12 component scales of the combined instrument; the results of which prove to be consistent with those previously reported. In subsequent analysis of the data, significant correlations are identified between six pairs of dependent variables. With statistical significance set at the 95% level, MANOVA is then utilised to determine the effect of a number of factors on scale scores. In addition to the primary focus on the effect that participation/non-participation in school community service programmes has on student self esteem, engagement with community and attitude to Christianity, other influencing conditions explored include; type of community service, duration of community service, prior community service involvement, and gender. The principal finding of this research is that a statistically significant relationship is evident only between students’ participation in school-facilitated community service programmes and their attitude to social justice. Attitude to social justice is a constitutive element of the larger construct, ‘sense of engagement with community’. Analysis of the data reveals no significant association between community service participation and either self-esteem nor attitude to Christianity. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings in the light of the earlier review of relevant literature.
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