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This guided assignment is designed to provide a format for you to critically reflect upon your service learning experience. You should first read these guidelines very carefully. Then, you should find a quiet place and think to yourself for about a half an hour. Finally, you should take an hour or two and write it all up. You don’t have to do it this way (after all, there is no way I could definitively know one way or the other), but students that do it this way typically have the best experience.
In the first part, you will objectively describe your service experience. To describe something objectively means to state facts, not your own beliefs, attitudes, values, or opinions. So, make it easy on yourself – state what you did with others, where you did what you did, when you did what you did, describe who else was there, and explain how people communicated with each other. Describe what happened, and describe how things happened.
In the second part, you will examine your experience. This means you will analyze what you just objectively described in detail. You will complete this second part in three phases. In Phase A, reflect upon your experience in terms of academic material from this course. Ask yourself the following questions, think about it for a while, and then write up only your most relevant insights:
• What specific academic material from the course is relevant to this experience? Explain the course material so clearly and so concisely that someone unfamiliar with it could actually understand it.
• How did the material emerge in your experience? When did you notice this relevance?
• What sociological skills did you use? What sociological skills could you have used?
• In what specific ways are your understandings of sociological concepts and your service experience similar? In what specific ways are they different? What are the possible reasons for these similarities and/or differences?
In Phase B of your examination, you will reflect upon your experience in terms of communication. Ask yourself the following questions, think about it for a while, and then write up only your most relevant insights:
• In what ways did you succeed in your interactions with others? What personal characteristics (e.g., skills, perspectives, beliefs, attitudes, values) helped you be successful?
• In what ways did you experience difficulties communicating with others? What personal characteristics (e.g., skills, perspectives, beliefs, attitudes, values) contributed to these difficulties?
• How did your written, oral, and/or non-verbal skills play a role in your experience?
In Phase C of your examination, you will reflect upon your experience in terms of social change. Ask yourself the following questions, think about it for a while, and then write up only your most relevant insights:
• What was the group I was serving trying to accomplish? Why? What was I specifically trying to accomplish?
• What roles did each person involved play? Why? What roles could’ve been played, but weren’t played? Did people do things together or mostly do things alone? Why? Should you, or others, have worked with others in a different way?
• How did differences in power and privilege emerge in your experience? What are the sources of this power and privilege in this specific situation? Who benefits? Is anyone harmed?
• How did leadership emerge in the situation?
• How might members of the group you served define “community,” “leadership,” “power,” and “service”? What are the similarities and differences between their definitions and your own?
In the third part, you will articulate your learning. A good way to do this is by starting a sentence with “I learned that…”. Here, you want to express something important that you learned. You don’t want to just state facts. When you express what you learned, you want to provide a clear explanation of sociological concepts relevant to your learning so that someone not in the experience could understand it. Perhaps you have a better understanding of a sociological concept as a result of your service. Perhaps you have a better understanding of service as a result of already understanding sociological some concept. Either way, clearly show the reader what you learned.
These guidelines and questions are truly just guides. This isn’t an exhaustive list of every question you might ask and answer, nor is it necessary to ask and answer every single question here in your writing (you don’t have enough room in your reflection paper to do this anyway). Like all writing, you want to be precise, clear, accurate, and relevant. You want your claims to be supported with warranted evidence. You want a good balance between concrete things and abstract ideas. You want your writing to be logical. You want it to be fair. And you want it to be significant. (see the rest in additional material)*
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