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The Reflection Circle

Creativty requires the freedom to consider the "unthinkable" alternatives, to doubt the worth of cherished practices.
-- John Gardner, Leadership Writer

[John C. Gardner Photograph]

Simply put, reflection involves getting people talking about their experiences. Good facilitation can assure this occurs in a safe and democratic way. The most basic form this reflection takes is the reflection circle. In this forum the tools of good facilitation are used and questions are raised that start participants thinking about their experiences and their learning. The strengths of the reflection circle mirror those of good facilitation, and include providing space in which

Reflection participants should be seated in a circle, with the facilitator(s) seated along with them. Facilitators should not be separated out by standing up or speaking at a podium. A reflection question is posed by the facilitator and participants are encouraged to respond. Good facilitation is crucial to effective full group participation. Questions can be flexible and flow from the developing discussion, or can incorporate slightly more structure following a particular theme identified for the reflection session. Similarly, questions can be as broad as "Why are you involved in this service experience?" or more specific like: "Based on your work in an AIDS hospice, what are your thoughts on health care reform?" Following is a list of sample questions for a reflection circle. Additional questions can be found in the "Activities" section of this manual.

Reflection Questions

Why do you do service? for self-interest or altruism?

Describe the people you met at the service site.

Name three things that stuck in your mind about the service experience.

Describe the atmosphere of the service site.

Describe some of you interactions.

Why do you think (activity described in previous questions) happened?

How were you different when you left the service location compared to when you entered?

What did the "body language" of the people tell you?

How did the people's responses make you feel?

How did the services site make you feel? (compared to other identifiable places)

What brings people to the service site (both people seeking service and the volunteers)?

Are "strangers" welcomed at the service site? Why or why not?

How are you similar/different to the others (others in your service group? others seeking services? etc.)?

In what ways did being different help/hinder the group?

What have you learned about yourself?

If you were on of the people receiving services, what would you think of yourself?

How does this experience compare to others you've had?

What connections do you see between this experience and what you've learned in you college courses?

How was your service contributed to your growth in any of these areas: civic responsibility, political consciousness, professional development, spiritual fulfillment, social understanding, intellectual pursuit?

What have you learned about a particular community or societal issue?

How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?

Do you think these people (or situations) are unique? Why or why not?

What public policies are involved and what are their implications? How can they be improved?

Who determines what's best for the community?

Describe what a typical day might be like for someone who uses the services of the organization you worked with.

How would you do this differently if you were in charge?

What was the best/worst/most challenging thing that happened?

Did you feel like a part of the community you were working in?

How do you define community?

Describe an internal or external conflict that has surfaced for you during your service work. Explain the factors that contribute to it and how you might resolve or cope with the conflict.

Discuss a social problem that you have come in contact with during your service work. What do you think are the root causes of this problem? Explain how your service may or may not contribute to its alleviation.

What could this group do to address the problems we saw at the service site?

What could each participant do on his/her own?

How can society better deal with the problem?

How can this experience apply to other situations in your life?

How can your solutions apply to other situations in your life?

How can you solutions apply other problem(s) of other groups?

How can society be more compassionate/informed/involved regarding this community?

What is the difference between generosity, charity, justice, and social change?

Where do we go from here? What's the next step?

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