Impacts of community service on the moral development of associate degree students in Hong Kong

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Owing to the particular background of the Confucian culture in Hong Kong, community services have often been regarded as a kind of virtue or merit (Rock, 2008). Incorporating community service in moral education programs was found to be effective and advocated by Boss (1994) in the United States. The aim of this research is to further Boss’s approach by examining the use of community service in moral education programs under the entirely different social context of Chinese culture in Hong Kong. The research question is: What are the impacts of real-life experiences of community service learning on the students’ moral development if it is incorporated in a moral education program? The investigation is undertaken in three aspects: (1) The exploration of the effectiveness of incorporating community service into a moral education program for young adult students; (2) The investigation of community service within the context of the Chinese culture of Confucianism; and (3) The examination by comparing the learning outcomes of the students between those taking “community service” and those taking "ethical case study” in a moral education program. The research is conducted in a conceptual context of moral theories and Confucian approaches of becoming an exemplary moral person. The practical context includes the main approaches to moral education in Hong Kong community service learning as incorporated in moral education programs for local young adult students. It is an exploratory study incorporating both qualitative and quantitative approaches in the collection of data for a range of analyses. A total of thirty-one students are selected from a community college. Group A (community service) and Group B (ethical case study) participate in two rounds of in-depth interviews and quantitative tests (Defining Issues Test). The mixed methods approach enables collections of richer information and data for deeper analysis. Extra findings are facilitated when results are compared and contrasted between the two methods and two groups. Eleven constructs showing students’ learning experiences through their projects are formulated by interviews. Findings reveal that parental influence is regarded as a powerful factor in the process of moral development compared with other influences from teachers, peers and external professionals. Community service is found more rewarding than case studies because of its variety in nature, activities and purposes. Findings demonstrate that a real-life experience of community service is effective in enhancing students’ moral development in the unique social contexts of Hong Kong. The findings by using Defining Issues Test are unable to prove any differences between the two groups of students over the two rounds of tests. Furthermore, a qualitative approach is regarded as more appropriate in the exploration of students’ experiences in moral development in this project. In conclusion, two suggestions are proposed for professional practice; firstly, integrating community service is an appropriate way of providing moral education to young adult students within a Chinese context. Second, the approach can be remarkably effective when firm parental participation is involved in the moral education program.
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