With the exception of the first essay, the writing projects
for this class will all be based on a strategy of exploring and observing what
is going on in the community and in your service learning setting. While there is no required format, generally
your writing should include the following four components:
Description: Describe a scene or interaction that focuses
your discussion and provides a “text” that you will interpret and analyze. This part is a literal recording of what you
observed: Who was there (age, gender,
relationships), what is the setting and where is it, when did it occur. You can think of these as your lab notes.
Intepret: What is
happening here? How does it illustrate
some larger concept about how this setting is pursued or used? The idea here is to develop your hypothesis
of what is going on.
Analysis: Show which details of your description
support your interpretation. In other
words, “What makes you think so?”
Reflection: What was your part in this scene? How did you see yourself? How is this event like others you have
experienced? How is it different? Would you behave differently were you in a
similar scene another time?
- Reflection Essay: How do you manage to work
with and make a life together with people who sincerely believe in ideas
or positions or values that are at least very different, or even
antithetically opposed, from your own? In other words, how is
- Walkabout Essay: Select a neighborhood in the city
(neighborhoods are often a mile square).
around in it, even sit (it’s the weather’s bad, find a coffee shop). This will take several hours. Ask yourself, Who
lives here? Who works here? How many different ways do you see of
people interacting with one another?
Why is this place here
(rather than being some other place or somewhere else)? What does this place tell you about how
people know each other and relate to each other in this city? (This assignment works better if you do
it in a small team, 2 or 3 people, who talk about what each is seeing as
you wander through the neighborhood.)
- Observation #1: The Community and Its Needs: By now you have been working in your
service learning for awhile. What
are the range of needs of the people that you have observed in this
setting (remember, those who work there are “people” just as much as their
clients, and so are the funders)?
What strategies do they use to meet their needs? How does that seem to work for them?
- Observation #2: Activities and Relationships in the
Community: What sorts of
relationships have you seen enacted, in your service learning and in the public
Council meeting you observed? What
do you observe about who has “power” and how they use it? How do these relationships support or
make it more difficult to satisfy the community needs that you observed
- Turning Points Reflections: How has your understanding of “Community
Leadership” changed during the time of this course? What did your service learning
experience teach you about community leadership? How many sorts of leadership have you
observed in your time in the city?
Do you observe certain types in some situations more than
others? Do certain types work
better in some situations than in others?
What do you conclude about what you
would do if you “ran the zoo” (If you don’t know Dr. Seuss, you should; he
writes about these things and what he writes is good)? As part of your essay, you might want to
consider such questions as:
What were the “key moments” that you experienced,
those moments when you or someone else had a choice to make?
To what extent did the people you worked with or
observed draw on theory? Even if they
weren’t aware of it, were they using “theory-in-action”? If they were not thinking about what they
were doing, what did they use to guide
their decisions and actions?
How did the theories and concepts you were
studying in class hold up when it gets down to the street level? In other words, how were those theories work
in practice? Were there events where the
practice contradicted the theory?
What did you learn from practice that was not in
the theories at all?
What does the future hold for the organization
you worked in as it addresses changing community needs? What strategies are
being adopted to address change? What resources will be needed to achieve those
What are the ethical issues associated with
private or public participation in the community?
© 2010 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 18 August 2011