Tools for Critical Analysis

Watch Reflection in Service-Learning Part II, a video from St. Mary's College of California.

Reflection In Service-learning- Part II.mp4


Thinking critically about service may be new for students. For many students, it takes explicit attention to the reflection process before they become thoughtful about what they do, and reflection is not routinely built into most community work.2 Many students are not challenged by sharing their personal experiences with service or by doing the service itself. However, some may be resistant to addressing the critical thinking goals of academic service-learning. Students may write the "transformational essay," thinking that it is what faculty want and expect to hear. This can be a bigger challenge to grade, as service-learning is a transformational process. If you are getting the "it changed my life" essay without evidence, it is possible that the student did not fully connect their service to the course goals and you may want to clarify the purpose of service-learning and critical analysis with them.

Additionally, some students may have an expectation of being thanked or rewarded for their service. As they do not expect to be thanked for completing the other course assignments, this may mean that students are continuing to think of their service-learning as volunteerism or community service and do not see the community partner as an educator. This may be a good time to do the thank you note activity.

There are many other activities you can borrow or adapt for your service-learning class's critical analysis.

1Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning?​ San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

2Moore, D.T. "Discovering the Pedagogy of Experience​." Harvard Educational Review, 1981, 51(2), 286-300. in Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E. (1999).

3Where's the learning in service-learning?​ San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.