Students can learn the value of service and their ability to make a difference; classroom learning is enhanced and they become lifelong volunteers. Agencies and schools gain invaluable people-power, fresh ideas and energy, and client needs are met. Reflection ensures that student learning objectives are met.
Reflection - the key to helping students gain the most from their Service Learning experience.
In order for your agency to most effectively foster student learning, reflection activities should be included in the service experience. Reflection means the process of thinking about what we do and processing it to draw meaning from our experiences.
In your role as a community partner supervisor, it is essential that you help students reflect on their experiences - help them think critically about what they are doing, why it is important and what it means.
The following are a few examples of how you can help students reflect:
Thorough orientation – The orientation should be comprehensive, informing the student about your agency’s mission, goals and the work you do in the community. Talk to them about why they have chosen your site and what interests them about it, etc.
Processing meetings – Ask students open-ended questions about their experiences (e.g. What are you learning? What has surprised you? What can we do to solve this societal problem?)
Critical thinking questions – Ask students questions that challenge them to explore and think critically about your agency and the societal issues it addresses. Ask them to find answers to these questions during the course of their service and process what they discover with them periodically. (Why can’t children read? Why does homelessness exist?) Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a career in this field.
Help them meet their learning objective – Student have specific goals they must meet during the Service Learning experience. Make sure you are aware of these and develop activities that help meet these goals.