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How Do I Lead Student Reflection Sessions?

After the first week of the Service Learning project, conduct an in class "debriefing" session to establish analyzing and processing experience as a regular practice. The first Service Learning discussion session will almost always be different from their expectations so do a discussion session on this.

Have them write in their journal about what they expected and what occurred and how the difference between these things could relate to what they have studied in class. For example, they may realized they’ve made faulty assumptions about what the people they are serving would be like based solely on their own experience. They may see differences that stem from class, race or gender that they hadn’t expected or they may find that the goal they want to achieve takes more skill and planning then they had initially thought.

This is perhaps the most exciting part of a Service Learning program for here students can learn, in a very real direct way that is meaningful to them that:

  • problems have solutions ,
  • they have the skills to solve problems they encounter in the "real world" and
  • the materials they study in class can help them to understand the sources and possible solutions of these problems as well.

Plan do a fairly complete session on this and to return to the discussion and problem solving format every other week or so. There will also be wonderful success stories as well. It is useful to have students recount "one positive thing that happened and one challenge I’d like to explore."

If your group is ready for it, move them from solving problems to seeking out and creating opportunities. If they are not, just remind them that there is another step beyond problem solving and "putting out fires" and that one day, they can take that step as well.

If you can, try to visit a few sites and see your students in action. You will see your students in a totally new light. It is not only the achievers and honors students who do well in this program; one of the best things about it is how it calls forth unseen strengths in seemingly average students. Students who are very quiet in their college classrooms can captivate a whole room of lively thirteen year olds. Creative, imaginative and resourceful activities can come from the most literal minded students. When students actively experience an alternative to learned passivity, they can become more confident and empowered.


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