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ERIC Number: ED550484
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 253
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2678-4759-1
Confronting Social Injustice: Cognitive Dissonance and Civic Development in Higher Education Service-Learning
Rogers, Leslie Cohen
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
This qualitative, insider account of student civic development in a university service-learning course has two primary goals. One is to propose frameworks for describing the process of civic development of service-learning students that are situated in theories of civic identity, cognitive development, and cognitive dissonance. The other is to illustrate these frameworks using the experiences of undergraduates in three consecutive years of a service-learning course at a prestigious U.S. East Coast university. The course at the center of this research is titled "Tutoring in Urban Public Schools: Theory and Practice," (TUPS). TUPS students tutor the same elementary-age student twice each week at a low-performing, under-resourced urban public school. Both the theoretical framework and the analysis of undergraduate civic development in this study are considered in the context of the civic aim of the TUPS course: to transform a service experience situated in individualistic and philanthropic notions of civic participation into understandings of political structures and critiques of the root causes of educational inequities. Using a grounded-theory analysis of the changing civic knowledge, behaviors, and dispositions of undergraduates during their service-learning experience and in the immediate years following, cognitive dissonance--psychological discomfort experienced in the presence of values and beliefs, interpretations, or situations that contradict one's own understanding of reality (Cooper, 2007; Festinger, 1957; Harmon-Jones & Mills, 1999)--emerges as a central explanatory tool for describing patterns in student civic development. Service-learning students experience different levels of dissonance as they confront discrepancies in their understandings and beliefs about equity, capital, and power in American society. This research indicates that the relative magnitude and response to the dissonance experienced by service-learning students is related to their prior background and the degree to which they have engaged with communities of color. To describe the varied responses to dissonance, the term adaptivity to dissonance is defined as the ability to develop new cognitive schema in the presence of dissonant cognitions. Qualitative analysis strongly indicates that adaptivity to dissonance is associated with civic development along a continuum of citizenship performance that progresses from individualistic, altruistic models to participatory and critical-analytic-activist models of democratic participation. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A