Notes from Erin Burke Brown’s Class Presentation on Tu 10/14

Thank you to Tori for taking these extensive notes.

For the ReEstablish Richmond group:  these are important to at least look over.  For your mid-term essay, EVERYONE IN CLASS should read Mill’s essay called “The Four Furies: Primary Tensions Between Service Learners and Host Agencies,” which is linked to in the Daily Assignments and can also be found under the Readings heading on our blog site.  Mills discusses some of the issues Ms. Brown touched on in our class presentation.  The ReEstablish Group can rely solely on Mill’s ideas for your reflection, since you were not able to hear Ms. Brown’s presentation.

10/14/14:  Notes on Erin Burke Brown:  Class Speaker

Division of Community of Engagement

Erin Brown3400 Students took Service Learning Classes last year!

Things aren’t going the way you thought that it would? It becomes MESSY!  This is normal in service learning classes, and it is normal in real world jobs.

Not everything will go as planned…always remember that!

What is Service Learning?

Credit Bearing educational experience where students participate in organized service that meets the community’s needs. Students must reflect on service and increase the application of the course.  Your class was clearly already doing all of the components of the best service learning courses — working with nonprofit clients: Rampantry, ReEstablish Richmond, or Peter, Paul Development Center and reflecting on this experience in your blogs and exam papers.

Why Service Learning?

Service————————————–Service Learning————————————-Internship

  • Hands on Experience
  • Active Learning
  • Puts students in touch with the real world
  • All good learning doesn’t happen inside a classroom.
  • Beneficial to not only the Student, but the Community.
  • Free Labor for client
  • Experience/skill development for student resumes and interviewing for jobs
  • Connecting Theory and Content of the course with real world problems

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

-Ben Franklin

Service Learning is always messy!  Why is it Messy?

  • Never set in stone-things come up, people change their mind.
  • Working with others-people or clients.
  • Different Intentions-Lots of Stakeholders
  • Different Management
  • Scheduling Conflicts
  • Communication (Lack of)
  • Funding
  • Priorities are all different

What are the obstacles for Students, Instructors, Community, VCU?

  • Students:
    • Not enough free time
    • Not enough guidance
    • Funds and Transportation
    • Communication issues with clients
  • Instructors:
    • Hard to implement direct curriculum
    • No clear guide
    • Unequal course load
    • Finding Organizations that are willing to work with schedules
  • Community Partners:
    • Trust the Students
    • Location Problems
    • Might think it is a waste of time
    • Goals/Objectives- Different
    • Lack of Interest
  • VCU:
    • Hard to initiate student involvement
    • Safety of Students
    • Organizations willing to work with students
    • Effectiveness of work on students (Beneficial?)
    • Reputation of School
    • Stressful Planning
    • Workload Equivalent
    • Grading Rubric
    • Partnerships with organizations
    • Credit Calculation
    • Supervision

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

-Marian Wright Edelman

Reflective Blog Guidelines

Writing a reflective blog

Your blog is a space for reflecting on your journey through this class. Your posts should reflect on lessons you have learned from your volunteer experience, what you have learned from the readings, what new perspectives and opinions you have about using digital media for food advocacy, and for thinking purposefully about ideas you have, roadblocks you encounter, confusions or frustrations you experience, intersections you are making between your work (both intersections between readings and food justice work with clients, or intersections between your LIFE or your other work in classes and what happens in this course).  Developing a reflective practice is important for articulating and making new knowledge.  Instead of spitting back information in a scan tron test, the blog asks you to creatively demonstrate, narrate and reflect on specific learning in the class.

Blogging serves the following purposes:

  • Communicates your thoughts about the course material and course experiences (for your instructor and other peer readers)
  • Provides regular feedback between you and the instructor.  If you are not voicing concerns in the blog, the instructor has no way to respond to these concerns.  If you are not voicing new ideas in the blog, then your group has no access to your new ideas (unless you remember to tell them about your ideas).
  • Serves as a platform for synthesis of new knowledge and ideas.  Learning happens when you make a connection between something you may have already known or recognized, and something new that happens to you, or that you read about or learn.  The blog is the place for you to synthesize new knowledge and make it visible for the reader.
  • Helps to develop and practice critical thinking.  You must critically think to reflect.  Otherwise you are just listing what you did.  “I went to ReEstabllish Richmond and researched the breakfast foods of the Burmese people. It was really interesting.” — This post is a statement summarizing what you did, but it does not demonstrate any critical thinking about the usefulness of this work, perceptions you gained from your research, conflicts you noticed between your work and your assumptions or other peoples’ assumptions, etc.  Critical thinking requires practice and thoughtfulness.
  • Helps to elicit new topics of interest; helps to challenge topics that need improvement, provides a space for safe, creative thinking.  You should dream big in your blog.
  • Helps to clarify troublesome issues.  The blog is your space to tease out what isn’t working, raise concerns, make plans for addressing those concerns, report on how the troubleshooting efforts were responded to by your group, agency, etc.

How do I write a good blog post?

A good post is personal, reflective, and substantive. Additionally, your reader must be understand clearly what you have written.

Steve Wheeler (2010), an associate professor at Plymouth University (U.K.), states that the following factors contribute to a good post:

  • Titles that are thoughtful and reflect irony, humor, or are “catchy” in some way.
  • Relevant, interesting content.  If you are writing about something you’ve read, choose the most controversial or troubling ideas to reflect on.
  • Engaged voice, and willingness to question and probe deeper.
  • Images to illustrate your views and inform your readers.
  • Hyperlinks that take readers deeper into the topic or discussion.
  • Humor, word play, or even satire to strengthen your post and entertain your readers.

Generally, you should blog at least once a week if you have no other course readings on which to blog. Here are some guiding questions to think about when writing your post if you are at a loss for what to blog about:

  • What have you learned this week through course readings, class discussions, group work or client work?
  • What are you most excited about?  What do you wish you could do in this course that we haven’t done yet?  What do you wish you could do for your client but can’t figure out how to do it?
  • How can the week’s activities or this week’s group work be strengthened?
  • What new insights and problem solving strategies did I realize during discussions or while working with others?
  • What would you like to read about or learn more about?
  • What new ideas have you explored that you could bring to your group?
  • What is my group struggling with, and what role have you played in this struggle?  What trouble-shooting ideas can you bring to the table?
  • Where can you take the lead in something?


The following are examples of reflective blog posts from Food for Thought, 2013. They are substantive, clearly written and demonstrate personal reflection:   OR

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About Bonnie Boaz

I have been teaching for over 20 years, and after all this time, I would say that teaching is one of my superpowers. I taught at Syracuse University for seven years way back when (okay you were likely a baby then) and I've taught at VCU for 12 years. I've been teaching in University College for the last 8 years, and currently teach Univ 112, Univ 200, Univ 211, and Honors 200. I think VCU students are the best around: you are smart, open-minded, and creative. It's a privilege to share the classroom with all of you!

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