Triangulating Findings from an Instruction-Based Community Engagement Project

Maryann S. Whitaker, Dan Albertson


This paper reports on the assessment of initial data from an ongoing, award-winning service learning project called “Computer Training for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.” The project was researched, designed, and implemented by Masters in Library Science (MLIS) students at a large southeastern university. The two explicit goals of the project were to assess the effectiveness of the core curriculum in preparing students to undertake such a project and to provide technology literacy to clients with intellectual disabilities. However, the three implicit goals were to benefit the students, the clients, and the community partner through the process of engagement. The data reported are based on the first eighteen months of the project and are gathered from an exercise mapping the students’ perceptions of the usefulness of the core curriculum, their written reflections concerning their participation in the project, and their records concerning client progress through the instruction. The student data are corroborated through an interview session with the community partner. The methods and results reflect a qualitative text analysis protocol since the first phase of the project was exploratory and the population was limited. Quantitative data reflect only simple descriptive statistics due to sample size and lack of comparative data. Results indicate that the goals of the original project are being met, and other corollary effects, such as students’ attitudes concerning underrepresented populations were affected positively and constructively. We also identify necessary revisions and challenges as the project progresses, and numerous avenues for further research.

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