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Service Learning Reflective Questions


Service, An Unfolding Drama: 8-Week Journal Handout


Week One - The Setting

What are your most vivid first impressions of the site?

Describe settings, people, actions, and positive or negative feelings you are having.


Week Two - Players in the Drama

Describe who you work with, their lives, their goals in life. Include some personal reaction to the individual or individuals you are working with.


Week Three - The Plot

What are some activities you have been doing with the person(s) with whom you are working? Describe your relationship.


Week Four - The Plot (Continued)

Describe the types of reactions the person(s) you are working with have toward you. Cite specific examples. Describe your emotional response to their reaction.


Week Five - The Action

Describe how your presence in the community is having an impact on the person(s) you are working with. You may want to illustrate your point with a special experience you have had. If you feel you are having no impact, describe the reason (s) why that seems to be the case.


Week Six - The Script

Describe in some detail your service session including bits of conversation or, if you are working in a school, a sample of work that you and the kids have been involved in. Be creative. What is the significance of the selection you have made?


Week Seven - Analysis

After being in the community for several weeks now, how have your initial impressions been altered? If they have not changed, describe observations that confirmed your initial impressions.


Week Eight - Critique

Write a summary on your eight weeks. What was learned by both you and the person(s) you worked with? Include any special experiences or highlights you might have had. (This question may be expanded into an end-of-term paper, integrating concepts learned in class with observations made in the community.)



Sample Project: “Building Racial Harmony”


The International Educational Foundation has collaborated with Religious Youth Service (RYS) in carrying out projects around the world. Leadership is crucial in bringing together people of diverse backgrounds to work together to accomplish common goals. Before participants arrive for the service project, the staff gathers to lay the foundation through learning skills in team building, communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving. The following materials were prepared by Bermultinational Limited Organization Development Consultants[1] for a project with the theme, “Building Racial Harmony.”


These service projects draw participants from various races, religions, and nationalities to work together with local people to meet tangible needs. The focus is on building harmony among people of diverse races, religions, and ethnic groups through encouraging participants to explore values and beliefs as they serve together. “Building Racial Harmony” acknowledges the particular contributions of people of different religious and ethnic groups that make up the overall culture of a society.


''Building Racial Harmony” promotes a vision of a more inclusive and supportive society. This process empowers people to become change agents with the knowledge, skill, sensitivity, understanding, and empathy to influence those with whom they come in contact. It also helps people move toward greater equality and freedom.


Participants bring to a service project the behaviors they learned from members of their religious, racial, or ethnic group. Working together as a group on a “Building Racial Harmony” project gives people an opportunity to understand that their own culture is not the only standard, and other people bring different expectations to the project.




-Questions to Encourage People to Share Something about Themselves


  • What people and what experiences helped shape your present life? Please end with a high moment or happy memory.


  • What is the difference between the way you saw yourself 5 to 10 years ago and the way you see yourself now? Who or what helped make the difference?


  • Focus on just the last 6 to 12 months and describe the significant experiences and people that have had the most effect on you.


  • Using drawings or words, depict your life from beginning to now.


  • Share some spiritual experiences that give you a sense of focus, purpose, and goals.


  • Pick 3 or 4 experiences from the following list and share them:


• A spiritual quest

• A happy moment

• A decision you made that changed the direction of your life

• A person who made a difference in your !if e

• An experience where you helped someone

• An achievement of which you are proud

• Something you did successfully that you first hesitated to do

• A goal you are working on or have achieved.



-Questions for Discussion about Values


  • Is a value chosen freely?

  • Is a value chosen from among alternatives?

  • Is a value chosen after careful consideration of the effects or consequences of the various alternatives?

  • Is a value acted upon?

  • Do values affect our lives in visible ways?

  • Can they be observed in our daily behavior?

  • Is a value repeated with consistency?

  • If something is genuinely valued, does it tend to reappear at different occasions and in different contexts?

  • Do values form part of the pattern of our lives?

  • Is a value prized and cherished?

  • Is a value publicly affirmed?

  • In what situations are we ashamed of our values and, if asked about them, are afraid to communicate them clearly and publicly?

  • How are values measured?

  • When there are conflicts between a person's stated attitudes and his or her behavior, is that person hypocritical?

  • Is a person totally consistent in stated values and outward behavior?

  • Do values change, or are they constant and unchanging? If they do change, does the change abolish or merely revise them? Are there certain unchanging (permanent) values?

  • How do we survive changes in values upon which we have staked our identity?

  • How does religion relate to values?

  • How do religious organizations influence their members' values?



-Exploring Personal Values


The following questions give an opportunity for staff members and participants to reflect about their values and discuss them with others:


  • What are some of my most firmly held values and beliefs?

  • Do I consider myself spiritually focused?

  • When I have been really glad to be alive, what was I doing?

  • Do I see myself as a creative person? Why or why not?

  • Am I the happiest person I know? Why or why not?

  • In what different areas do I want to grow?

  • Whom do I respect the most? Why?

  • How do I handle compliments? Criticism?

  • Who influences me? How?

  • What upsets me?

  • What do I like most about myself?

  • What would I like to improve most about myself?




-Development of Attitudes about People of Other Cultures and Religions


Please reflect on your past and how your awareness, attitudes, and behaviors towards other religions, cultures, and individuals were developed by significant events, either positive or negative. Divide your life into stages. Each entry should indicate a significant event that influenced you in relation to building racial harmony. Please try to remember and describe only significant events and their influence and impact on you:


  • Ages 5-12 (early years)


  • Ages 13-19 (teenage years)


  • Age 20+ (adult years)



-Recent Contacts with People of Other Religions and Cultures


When diverse individuals and/or groups come together, there is an opportunity for conflict as well as learning. Analyze a contact you have had within the last three months with a person who is different from you. Consider the following:


  • In what ways were your cultures similar? Dissimilar?

  • Was there any conflict? If so, how were differences managed?

  • If there was no conflict, why not?

  • What did you contribute from your culture to the relationship? What did the other person contribute to you from their culture?

  • Were you influenced in any way as a result of the contact?

  • Other comments and observations:



-An Experience with Racial Conflict


Share from your own experiences information about a racial conflict. Record the following information about the situation.


  • Describe the situation:

  • What events led to the problem?

  • How can problems like this be prevented?

  • In a small group discuss the question: “What causes one racial group to dislike and distrust another racial group?”

  • What steps could be taken by individuals or communities to change situations and encourage racial harmony?



-Reflections on Experiences as a Team


  • How do we achieve balance in life?

  • How do we keep simplicity in a world of complexity?

  • How do we maintain a sense of direction?

  • How do we look at human weaknesses with compassion, rather than accusation and self-justification?

  • How do we replace prejudice (the tendency to pre-judge and categorize people in order to manipulate them) with a sense of reverence and discovery in order to promote learning?

  • How can we be global citizens based on mutual respect and the valuing of diversity and differences?

  • Where do we start?

  • How do we keep learning, growing, and improving?



-Daily Learning Journal


Everyone involved in a service project can benefit from keeping a daily journal. The following is a sample journal page:


  • Name:


  • Date:


  • Most important and useful things learned today:


  • Who/what helped most in my learning?


  • What are the applications of the things I learned?


  • What action steps will I take?


  • Personal items to remember and use:


  • New ideas/concepts:


  • Ideas/concepts I should share:


  • Suggestions for improving my communication:


  • Newly identified or reinforced problem areas for me:


  • Things to do tomorrow:




[1] This journal idea is from the Joint Educational Project of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California as published in: Suzanne Goldsmith. Journal Reflection: A Resource Guide for Community Service Leaders and Educators Engaged in Service Learning, Washington, D.C.: American Alliance for Rights & Responsibilities, 1996.


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