Loyola is unique in seeing service as a means of education. Therefore, Loyola advocates using P.A.R.E. model, which stands for:
Proper preparation lays the foundation for the service experience. The purpose of preparation is to encourage yourself to consciously think about, and open up to, the experience of service with an open heart and critical mind. It is also an opportunity to learn details of expectations during the service experience.
When you are well-prepared for your service experience, it increases the likelihood that both you and other community members will have a positive experience! Preparation can set the tone for a service project and may be connected to those issues you address in your self-reflection.
Listed below are steps you could follow to properly prepare yourself:
1. Find out any logistical information about the day. Consider the following questions:
How will you get to the service site? If driving, research clear directions.
Make sure you have filled out the Informed Consent Release (Word doc) and submitted to email@example.com
Timeliness is important as the agency is expecting you at a certain time. Build in extra time in case you get lost or travel takes longer than anticipated.
2. Be sure you have all information about the content of the project, including:
Who will meet you at the site?
What type of training/orientation will be provided?
What type of service will you be doing?
What will happen at the end of the service experience?
Where will the reflection session be and how long will it last?
3. Consider the broader issues relating to the project:
Research information about the population with which you will be working.
Reflect on how issues such as oppression, privilege and racism affect the population with which you will be working.
4. Explore your own expectations and assumptions:
Think about what you hope to gain from the project. Reflect on your own potential stereotypes, impressions, assumptions and concerns going into the project.
Go out and enjoy your service experience!
Reflection is pausing to review, ponder, contemplate, analyze or evaluate your service experience to gain deeper understanding—it serves as a bridge between experiences and learning. Rather than limiting the focus to the affective issue of “How did you feel about the project?” it expands the focus to, “What does this say about myself, our world and my role in the world?”
Reflection is crucial to the process of integrating the service experience into consciousness and to providing a potentially transformative experience. Reflection is also an avenue to explore service/faith connections.
- It is a reality check that guards against reinforcing inaccurate perceptions and biases.
- It helps with problem solving in specific situations, issues, etc.
- It supplies on-going education on general issues related to service (i.e. the family socioeconomic, cross-culture and the developmental issues in cross-age mentoring programs).
- It clarifies values as you confront new issues.
- It integrates service and relates learning to the rest of your life.
- It answers the questions “What difference does my service make to the community?” and “Why perform service?”
- It builds community among participants.
- It helps students address the issue of confidentiality.
There are many different ways to structure your reflection. Two methods are outlined below. If you are interested in other possibilities, the full-time staff in the Center for Community Service and Justice would be happy to review alternative reflection techniques. (Contact Amy Maher at firstname.lastname@example.org, ext. 2699 if you’re interested in more options).
- 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 your interactions.
- What do you think (activity described in previous questions) happened?
- What brings people to the service site (both people seeking service and the volunteers)?
- How did you feel about people's responses?
- How did you feel about the service site (compared to other identifiable places)?
- What feelings came up for you while you were at the service site?
- What did the "body language" of the people tell you?
- What was the best/worst/most challenging thing that happened?
- Did you feel like a part of the community you were working in?
- 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?
- 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 or graduate courses?
- How do you define community?
- Why do you do service? For self-interest or altruism?
- What have you learned about yourself?
- How were you different when you left the service location compared to when you entered?
- If you were one of the people receiving services, what would you think of yourself?
- How has your service contributed to your growth in any of these areas: civic responsibility, political consciousness, professional development, spiritual fulfillment, social understanding, intellectual pursuit?
Considering Broader Societal Issues:
- 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?
- 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?
What Can You Take Away?:
- 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.
- How can this experience apply to other situations in your life?
- How can your solutions apply to other situations in your life?
- How can your solutions apply to 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?
This structure for reflection questions is perhaps the most widely known and used. It is a basic way to promote thought that begins with reviewing the details of the experience and moves toward critical thinking, problem solving and creating an action plan.
- Facts, what happened, with whom
- Substance of group interaction
- Shift from descriptive to interpretive
- Meaning of experience for each participant
- Feelings involved, lessons learned
- Contextual—seeing this situation's place in the big picture
- How can we apply lessons learned /insights gained to new situations
- Setting future goals, creating an action plan
3. The Examen
Adapted from Intersection’s Document, Boston College.
(This can be used for those who are interested in exploring spiritual connections with service.)
This is a daily practice Jesuits use to help them realize the movements of God in their daily lives. You can use it to help notice God’s presence and companionship in your life or simply as a reflective tool.
The Examen can be used to reflect on any specific timeframe.
- Take a few deep breaths and center yourself.
- Take two minutes of silence to consider the following questions:
- For what are you most grateful?
- For what are you least grateful?
- Return gently back to your day.
- Ask God for the graces you need to improve upon and thank God for the graces you have received.
4. You might consider using one of the following dyads:
- When did I give and receive the most love? Least love?
- When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?
- When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?
- When was I most free? Least free?
- When was I most creative? Least creative?
- When did I feel most connected? Least connected?
- When did I feel fully myself? Least fully myself?
- When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?
- When did I succeed? Fail?
- When did I have a special encounter with a family member? Friend? Co-worker? Other?
- When did I experience forgiveness, compassion, justice, courage, joy, gratitude?
- How have I felt God present for me? Felt God Absent?
Please fill out the Volunteer Evaluation Form (Word doc) to help us continuously improve your service experience. Please send the completed form to email@example.com.