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Community Service Learning and the Emergence of Systems Thinking: A Teacher Education Project in an Urban Setting in Turkey

This study explores how community service learning experiences are reflected in the cognition of prospective teachers. Initial thoughts related to the experience are analyzed in relation the emerging thoughts throughout and after the experience. The study explored the thoughts of 15 prospective foreign language teachers related to their participation in a community project. The participants tutored students with visual disabilities at a learning center in an urban setting in Turkey. As part of the community-based field experience, participants worked with the learners with visual disabilities over a 16-week period. For this study, multiple reflective narratives of experience were collected from each individual. The goal for the collection and analysis of these narratives was explore the participants' thinking patterns throughout the project and encourage them to reflect on their experience. The analysis of participants' discourse relied on analysis of co-occurring lexemes in sample utterances text with descending hierarchical classification and correspondence analysis. The main themes that reflected the thoughts of the participants were related to (a) visions for community service, (b) teaching students with visual disabilities, (c) reflections in action, (d) awareness through interactions with difference, (e) interactions with people during community service, and (f) efforts to contribute to the project site. These themes were discussed in relation to the contribution of community service learning and the emergence of systems thinking among program participants.