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Getting Started

In order to be most effective facilitators should be purposeful in planning the reflection component of the service experience. The following factors should be considered:

  1. Setting Goals: Reflection has many possible outcomes, including increased awareness of social issues, values clarification, and even program evaluation. Before initiating reflection the facilitator must consider which outcomes are possible and desirable. Reflection goals will be related to the group's goals, and possibly to the type of service in which students are participating. In addition, goals should be considered for participants as well as for the group as a whole. The goals can be broad, rather than specific, allowing for their further development throughout reflection. The facilitator should be flexible, recognizing that reflection evolves and goals may change.
  2. Knowing Your Audience: Consider who will be participating in the reflection. Are they new to service? If not, what is the extent of their previous experience? How long have they been at college? What academic subjects are they most interested in? What strengths do they bring to the reflection sessions? What might be potential tension points? Be prepared to encourage each individual's participation and to recognize their contributions. Choose activities and approaches that foster this.
  3. Making Time: The reflection component should be built into the service experience, rather than being an "extra" or "add-on" activity. The program or course's literature should indicate this and it should be clearly articulated to service participants. The amount of time allotted for reflection will depend, in part, on the issues that are being addressed (for example, racism) and the intensity of the service experience (for example, alternative spring break programs should schedule daily reflection sessions). Make certain that participants are aware of the time responsibilities for reflection and that the sessions are schedule at convenient times for participants.
  4. Choosing a Method: The form of reflection that you choose will depend not only on the goals and issue previously identified, but also on the location and time for the session and the number for people involved. Sample methods include pot luck dinners, journals, discussions, and group activities. Outside speakers can also be useful, but should not exceed 50% of the total reflection time (Morton, 1989). While this manual will focus on discussion and group activities, the last section will list additional forms of reflection.

    When choosing methods for reflection be certain to keep the following points in mind:

  5. Resources: Facilitators should identify other resources pertaining to service and reflection that can provide information and support. This may include people on campus, in the community and in national service organizations, as well as relevant materials such as literature, research, and activity guides.
  6. Skills: Reflection programming is only as successful as its facilitation. Facilitators, whether students, staff, or faculty, should be trained in proper facilitation techniques in order to create an atmosphere that is safe yet challenging, and in which all participants can be involved. Facilitators should be knowledgeable of group dynamics and able to respond appropriately to conflicts during reflection. In addition, facilitators should be familiar with the experience on which the reflection is based and with the issues being addressed. Facilitators can call upon other resources if their knowledge of the issues is limited.
  7. Evaluation: The reflection process should be evaluated by participants periodically throughout its duration, and at its conclusion. This allows facilitators to understand what is most beneficial about the reflection sessions and to make modifications when necessary. In addition, by evaluating the reflection sessions, students consider what they have learned through reflection, thereby enhancing the value of reflection.

Other points to remember:

* Demonstrate the importance of reflection: Emphasize the value of reflection by making it a regularly schedule part of the service experience. Make sure that everyone participates, including group leaders and others who were in attendance (faculty, available community members, etc.) in situations in which facilitators should not engage in the reflection (for example, when they are guiding the discussion), they should reflect in some other way, such as by journaling. The importance of reflection can also be demonstrated by including it in literature and presentations about the group's activities.

* Capitalize on "teachable moments": Be prepared to facilitate reflection when situations arise involving significant issues or experiences (for example, death of a shelter resident). This involves training in facilitation and familiarity with the resources available on a variety of topics. Naturally it helps the facilitator to have experience the situation, or to otherwise be accessible to the group in order to learn about it. Facilitators should maintain contact with service participants and try to take part in their informal gatherings.

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