At the beginning of the semester, you will write a 2-3 page summary of what you want to get out of this course, plus another 1-page evaluation of the ways that you already know how to learn. In these three pages, you will lay out your personal goals for the course in three areas:
- Content learning
- Expanding your range of learning strategies
- Personal growth
I am particularly interested in having you shift from a child-centered form of learning (“pedagogy”) to an adult-centered form of learning (“andragogy”). See the Pedagogy vs Andragogy page elsewhere on this website for details.
Halfway through the semester, we will pause to talk about what we have learned and how we are reacting to that learning. Each student will bring to class a short set of written reflections, no more than a page in length. This will be the basis for our class discussion. Bring this assignment to class.
As with the learning contract, there is no one right way to do this. Depth is better than shallowness; candor is better than trying to create ‘the right answer’. The issue is: How are you reacting to what we have learned?
At the end of the semester, you will write a 3-4-page paper giving your personal reflections on what you learned from this course in all three areas. The due date is listed on the Schedule page. Turn it in on Moodle.
I am particularly interested in your personal growth and in your willingness to expand your range of learning strategies. I want you to challenge yourself with this course, both intellectually and in terms of your skills. Evidence of such challenge will heavily influence your grade.
As with the Learning Contract, this assignment is about you, not about my expectations.
- You identified what content you wanted to learn. Have you learned it? What have you learned about hunger and homelessness in America that you did not expect to learn? How do you feel about that learning? What more do you need to know?
- You also identified your core learning strategies and chose one or more other strategies that you hoped to improve. How has that gone? What have you learned about your own learning style(s) – both things that you expected and things that you did not? How might you further improve your skill set? What learning skills do you want to work on next?
- Finally, you identified some areas in which you wanted to grow. Some of you wanted to improve your public speaking skills. Some wanted to develop more empathy for others. Some wanted to learn to listen better, to work well in groups, or to get out and meet new people. As I said at the beginning, your particular choice does not matter. The question is: What did you work on and how has that gone? Compared to the beginning of the semester, how have you grown?
There are, remember, no right answers to these questions. There are only shallow answers and deeper ones. Please write about these matters as deeply as you can. Deep engagement earns you the best grade.
Then, as a favor to me — and to yourself — ask yourself the question that I posed to you on the first day of class:
“How well have I learned to take responsibility for everyone’s learning, including the instructor’s?”
I’ll be very interested in reading what you have to say.
For those seeking further advice, Ryerson University, in Ontario, Canada, has posted a lovely handout titled: “Student Tip Sheet: Writing a Reflection Paper“. Though it doesn’t specifically speak to this course’s andragogical elements, it does have some very fine suggestions about how to think about what you have learned.
Ryerson has also posted a scholarly article by on reflection papers by Sarah L. Ash and Patti H. Clayton: “The Articulated Learning: An Approach to Guided Reflection and Assessment“, originally published in Innovative Higher Education, Vol. 29, No. 2, Winter 2004.