Description: URSI Logo  URBS 230—Writing Assignments

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:

a.      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.

b.      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.

c.       Analysis:  Show which details of your description support your interpretation.  In other words, “What makes you think so?” 

d.      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?


  1. 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 democracy possible?


  1. Walkabout Essay:  Select a neighborhood in the city (neighborhoods are often a mile square).   Walk 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.)


  1. 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?


  1. 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 earlier? 


  1. 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 strategies?

·         What are the ethical issues associated with private or public participation in the community?




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© 2010 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 18 August 2011