Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ask Your Spanish CSL Students to Reflect on Someone Else's Experience

by Ann Abbott

Do you ever read a semester's worth of your Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students' reflections and start to feel like it's all a little narcissistic? We ask students to tell us about their experiences in the community, their learning, their plans for the future, and then when they do precisely what we ask of them, we read a lot of "me, me, me."

One way to get around that, of course, is to ask them to describe in detail the people in the community, the community itself, and issues.

But another way around self-centered reflection is to ask people to write a letter of recommendation. They have to reflect on someone else to be able to effectively recommend them. Plus, knowing how to write a good letter of recommendation is a good transferrable skill. As a bonus, once students know what it takes to write a good letter of recommendation for someone else, they can make their own letter-writers's job easier by supplying them with all the necessary ingredients.

Go to Loreal's "Women of Worth" website and ask students to do the following:

  • Explore the site to get a "feel" for what the selection committee is looking for in a nomination.
  • Analyze all the honorees from a previous year. What patterns do they see? What makes these women's stories compelling?
  • Use the information from that analysis to write an actual recommendation for someone from the community where they work. (If they don't know anyone from the community well enough to write a nomination, ask your community partners if there is someone they think your class should nominate.) They should follow the steps on the site, but save all the information on a Word document to turn in and share with their classmates.
  • Read their classmates' nominations and vote on the best.
  • Submit the best nomination.

On a smaller scale, students can click on the "Get Involved" tab, read the stories there, and submit their own. It's just one more way to make reflection real, not just an academic exercise like any other, that only the professor reads. It gives students reflection a real purpose and a real audience.

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