Let’s start out by defining our terms. The definition of service-learning differentiates it from volunteering and old-fashioned community service.
It is true that there are many definitions about service-learning floating around, some since the 1970s. In fact, everyone reading this probably has one. But this definition is a solid working one, succinctly covering the distinctives:
Here’s a great story. A graduate student is attending a lecture being given by one of her intellectual heroes, the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire. She takes notes furiously, trying to capture as many of his words as possible. Seeing that she is keenly interested in what Freire had to say, his translator asks if she would like to meet him. Of course! She is introduced and he begins by inquiring about her work. Then he graciously agrees to respond to a set of questions she and her colleagues hoped they would get the chance to ask him. She is impressed beyond belief, but time prevents her from asking one last, difficult question. They meet accidently once more at the event and he wonders if she asked all her questions? No, there is one more. “Given your work, we want to know ‘where is the hope’?” Without hesitating he moves toward her, takes her face in his hands, looks into her eyes, and replies, “You tell them, ‘you are the hope, because theory needs to be reinvented, not replicated … it is a guide. We make history as we move through it and that is the hope.”
While some may be hesitant about teaching critical reflection in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, that’s where students and society can reap multiple benefits from this important skill.
The Little Assignment with the Big Impact: Reading, Writing, Critical Reflection, and Meaningful Discussion
Several years ago, I came across the Purposeful Reading Assignment that was reported to encourage students to read, reflect, and write about readings assigned for class. Research (Roberts and Roberts, 2008) and experience tell us that supporting students’ reading, writing, and reflective practices is one of the most challenging aspects of learning and teaching. Although this assignment appeared to be simple, it has proven to be an influential tool for learning and has increased engagement and participation among my students.
Students should be receiving information, reflecting on it, questioning it, testing it, applying it … really understanding it. Learning deeply, in other words. Learn how to design critical-reflection exercises that achieve desired learning outcomes.
Experiential learning is widely recognized as a high-impact educational practice that occurs outside the classroom through experiences such as internships, study abroad, and service-learning. However, experiential learning works very well inside the classroom as well. In fact, there are a number of reasons why faculty may want to facilitate an experiential learning component in class rather than outside of class.
It’s thrilling when I, as an educator, witness a student’s transformation from a limiting perspective to one that is broader, more inclusive, and most times empowering and inspiring. I can see that the change in their ways of thinking opens their mind to new possibilities about their lives and their worlds. The recognized precursors for
More and more colleges and universities are developing general education curricula that include courses involving critical reflection, including how the various disciplines address some of the big questions facing today’s society. But be warned, critical reflection is not for the faint of heart.
Critical reflection provides one of the best ways to transform rudimentary assignments intro truly transformational learning opportunities. This seminar will outline the steps involved in designing critical reflection course components and explain how these strategies can lead to the achievement of desired learning outcomes.
audio Online Seminar • Recorded on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
I had occasion this week to reread one of my favorite articles. In this piece Marshall Gregory explores teaching 18th Century British poetry, content he loves but that his students don’t find particularly compelling. Gregory’s honesty is at times brutal—the article is such a great example of how critical reflection can lead a teacher to new insights and deeper understandings.