Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Second Advisor

Mervin Matthew

Third Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Understanding how to cultivate civic mindedness and engagement in emerging adults is of central importance. Theories of positive youth development point to the importance of particular youth characteristics for promoting the development of successful and contributing citizens (Lerner, Almerigi, Theokas, & Lerner, 2005). Among these, self-efficacy, or one’s belief in their ability to perform a specific task, is considered essential (Bandura, 1977; DeWitz, 2004; Solhaug, 2006). Scholars have, more recently, pointed to the role of purpose as key for motivating civic engagement (Damon, Menon, & Cotton Bronk, 2003). Beyond youth characteristics, other scholars point to the importance of opportunities for youth engagement, such as community engagement and service-learning. Opportunities offered through such programs have been linked to student growth in civic attitudes and skills. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships between self-efficacy, purpose, and the development of civic attitudes, including civic action, political awareness, diversity attitudes, and social justice awareness, among students involved in a service-learning course. A second aim is to demonstrate and explore the role and importance of service experiences in student learning. It was hypothesized that there would be a change in civic attitudes and skills following a service experience (i.e., student’s participation in a service-learning course) and that self-efficacy and purpose would predict changes in civic attitudes and skills. For a subset of individuals, we predicted the dimensions and quality of service experiences would further predict civic attitudes and skills. To explore these relationships, this study utilized archival data collected from college students enrolled in an environmental service-learning course over three semesters. Results indicated that students overall civic attitude and skills, as well as all sub-areas, significantly increased following participation in a service-learning course. Further, the combination of general self-efficacy and purpose significantly predicted changes in overall civic attitudes and skills, political awareness, and diversity attitudes. Student’s indicated service experiences contributed to their overall learning at a significantly higher rate than other course components. The results of this study re-affirm the importance of service-learning experiences and self-efficacy in relation to the development of civic-mindedness in young adults.



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