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  • Tests of the Validity and Reliability of the Community Service Attitudes Scale
  • Brian Perry (bio), Richard Osbaldiston (bio), and Jaime Henning (bio)

Community service is deeply rooted in American culture (Spring, Grimm, & Dietz, 2008). Each year, over 60 million Americans, representing nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, participate in community service (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Community service is also actively promoted on college campuses through formal programs such as service-learning (Zlotkowski & Duffy, 2010), through extra-curricular activities such as alternative breaks (e.g., DuPre, 2010; North, 2010; Rhoads, 1998), and through organizations such as Greek fraternities and sororities (Hayek, Carini, O’Day, & Kuh, 2002; Robbins, 2004). Although there is no single set of unified, agreed-upon goals for these types of programs, most of them probably have the dual goals of (a) addressing a specific need directly through service and (b) creating positive attitudes toward community service in general. (A full review of the outcomes of service programs is beyond the scope of this article, but see Astin, Sax, & Avalos, 1999, and Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005.)

There have been repeated calls for the necessity of evaluating these programs, especially for service-learning (e.g., Butin, 2003; Gelmon, 2000; Holland, 2001), and these calls are likely to grow stronger in the demanding environment where accountability must be documented and funding grows more stringent (Leveille, 2006). Porter (2011) noted that many programs are thoughtfully designed and executed, but the challenge in the field is to systematically demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs. Unfortunately, there is not a well-established and generalized measure for assessing the effects of each program, especially with regard to creating positive attitudes. If a validated measure were available, it would encourage systematic and objective program evaluation. Such systematic research would help identify programs that are truly achieving their goals and help build a science of community service. The purpose of this research was to validate an easy-to-use scale that measures 10 components of students’ attitudes toward community service.

Community Service Attitudes Scale

Shiarella, McCarthy, and Tucker (2000) developed a measure of community service attitudes by integrating previous research on a wide variety of community service motivators. The resulting Community Service Attitudes Scale (CSAS) is an instrument for measuring college students’ attitudes (broadly defined) towards community service that is based on Schwartz’s (1977) model of altruistic helping behaviors. The CSAS has 10 subscales: awareness, actions, ability, connectedness, norms, empathy, costs, benefits, seriousness, and intention to engage in community service.

Shiarella et al. (2000) reported four methods to confirm the validity of the CSAS scale. All four of these methods were appropriate preliminary tests, but the most common and powerful method for testing [End Page 726] validity—the “known groups” method—was not used. We sought to test the validity of the CSAS by comparing three groups that are known to differ in their community service attitudes. One group—the participants of alternative break trips—actively participates in community service. These students have a strong service orientation; they have freely chosen to be involved with spring break trips that have the goal of community service. The second group—members of the Greek fraternity and sorority system—also has a strong service orientation, but perhaps not as strong as the alternative break participants. Many Greek organizations have service requirements for their members and chapters. Although it is true that not everyone involved in the Greek system has a positive attitude toward community service, this population should have an appreciation of service. The third group is uninvolved students. These students are not involved in organizations that encourage community service.

Our primary hypothesis was that the alternative break participants would score higher on all subscales (except costs, which is scored in the opposite direction) than would the uninvolved participants. We also hypothesized that Greek participants would score somewhat lower than would participants involved in alternative breaks and somewhat higher than would uninvolved participants. We also expected to replicate the internal consistency that Shiarella et al. (2000) reported.

Method

Participants

The sample was drawn from two populations. First, college students who participated in a national alternative break leadership conference (n = 71) were recruited. Second, college students...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3382
Print ISSN
0897-5264
Pages
pp. 726-731
Launched on MUSE
2014-11-03
Open Access
No
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