Monday, April 19, 2010

How Do Service Learning Students Choose Their Reflection Topics?

by Ann Abbott

Each Lección in Comunidades has a corresponding reflection prompt at the Companion Website (you don't need a copy of the book to see its on-line resources).  My "Spanish in the Community" students write six reflections, one of them is a peer-review, and so they have to pick five reflection prompts from among the 23 that are included with the book.  I was expecting to read about lots of different topics.

Instead, I found that many of my students chose to write about the same topics.  During Unit 2, most students chose to reflect on ways in which they had experienced culture shocks similar to the one described in the prompt for Lección 6. And during our work in the last half of the semester, most students chose to respond to the prompt for Lección 11.

I was surprised by this, so I asked my students in class one day, ¨How do you choose the reflection prompts for your reflective essays?"  These were the answers:
  • Nearly all students said that they choose the prompts that they feel they will have the most to say something about.
  • They feel they will have the most to say about prompts that describe situations that they have personally experienced.
  • A few students (only a few) choose the prompts that coincide with their personal interests and passions (e.g., politics).
  • One very honest student revealed that he/she avoids the prompts for which you have to look up information (e.g., the prompts for Lección 14 about globalization and Lección 16 about StoryCorps.)
That is good information to know, especially because I find that I need to push my students more towards reflecting on specific things they are observing and learning in the community service learning work and less about topics in their own lives that aren´t closely linked to what they are doing in the community.  I will now go back and revise the prompts that don´t specifically and tightly link the topic to their work in the community.

What prompts have you used that provoked good student reflections?  Did you prepare any prompts that bombed?  Leave a comment with your experiences and suggestions!

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