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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gary D. Malaney

Second Advisor

Ximena Zúñiga

Third Advisor

Arthur S. Keene

Subject Categories

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


Service-learning, particularly critical service-learning, is relational work that endeavors to create and maintain more just relationships among students and community members within and across social identity groups (Mitchell, 2008). It is essential that students in service-learning courses learn how to talk, listen and collaborate with community members in ways that acknowledge and explore how social identities, privilege, and oppression impact people’s life experiences and relationships. However, in our socially-segregated society, in which schools and neighborhoods are as divided by race and income as they were half a century ago (Reardon & Bischoff, 2011; Reardon & Owens, 2014), many college students are not accustomed to talking, learning, and working with others across differences. Research suggests that when college students participate in structured dialogue across differences, such as intergroup dialogue, they are better prepared to understand and engage with others across diverse social identities (Gurin, Nagda, & Zúñiga, 2013). Yet, research on the outcomes of integrating intergroup dialogue pedagogy into service-learning courses is sparse. Informed by existing literature on service-learning and intergroup dialogue, this qualitative case study of the Citizen Scholars Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst provides an account of how 18 undergraduate students learned about and practiced dialogue processes as a curricular component of a multi-semester, cohort-based service-learning program. Case study methodology was employed to analyze 25 individual interview transcripts, 36 final papers, and 126 reflective memos. Three significant findings emerged from the thematic analysis of the data. First, learning to dialogue and engaging in dialogue with others about social identity issues profoundly mattered to the CSP students. Second, practicing dialogue in a structured, reflective curriculum, facilitated students’ broader civic learning, evidenced by the ways they extended dialogue to their community service relationships and integrated dialogue sensibilities into their everyday lives. Finally, students’ learning to dialogue (and the subsequent outcomes linked to this learning) was supported by an intentionally-designed, engaged learning process. These findings suggest the significant potential of incorporating dialogue across differences into service-learning as part of a broader approach of centering social justice processes and outcomes to promote students’ development of civic sensibilities and social responsibility.