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The Done Deed: Assessing and Celebrating Service Learning

Image: blackred/istockphoto.com

Image: blackred/istockphoto.com

You've implemented a service learning program. Now what?

Reflection

An integral part of any service activity is reflection. Students should be given the opportunity to think about the meaning of their service and how their experiences shape their ideas, knowledge, and perceptions throughout the course of their involvement in a project. While on-going reflection activities such as weekly journal entries can help students to trace the development of their thoughts over time, students should also analyze their service at its completion. The following are a sampling of potential reflection activities compiled by the Points of Light Foundation.

Speaking:
  • One-on-One meetings with the teacher/project leader
  • Whole-class / group discussion
  • Oral report to the class / group
  • Oral presentation for parents, teachers, agency staff, community leaders, policy makers
  • Discussions with and feedback from community members or experts on an issue raised by the project
Multimedia:

  • Photo or video essay
  • Painting, drawings, collages, or other artwork
  • Dance, music, or theatre presentations
  • Portfolio, webpage or blog of images and essays
Writing:

  • Essay or research paper
  • Journal or blog (daily, weekly, etc.)
  • Case study or history
  • Guide for future volunteers / participants
  • Self and/or project evaluation
  • Newspaper, magazine, or other published article
  • Narrative for a video, film, or slide show
Other Activities:

  • Simulation or role playing
  • Plan a training session for future volunteers
  • Recruit peers to serve
  • Teach project lesson to younger students

Evaluation

Evaluations can be used to assess not only the performance of each student, but also the outcomes of the service project more broadly for the partner organizations, school, community, and individuals being served. They can be used to determine whether the project itself has achieved its intended goals and can help to identify both its strengths and its weaknesses. These results can then in turn be used by students, teachers, and project directors to enhance the service experience for all involved in the future and to suggest other possible service activities. Examples of student, teacher, and project supervisor evaluation forms are included in the sample documents section of this page. The national service organizations also offer evaluation and assessment tools.

Recognition and Celebration

By recognizing the efforts of students and community partners as well as by celebrating achievements, your school can help to encourage lifelong community service and involvement. Recognition can come in the form of awards and assembly programs, in-school or online project displays, articles in the school newsletter or local newspaper, parties, certificates, or site visits by local officials. There are also several national recognition programs, several of which are described below.

Congressional Award
The U.S. Congress has created this award to “promote and recognize achievement, initiative, and service in America's youth”. Youth ages 14 to 23 are eligible to earn Bronze, Silver, and Gold Congressional Certificates and/or Medals by completing the specified number of hours and requirements in four program areas: Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.

Daily Point of Light Award
The Daily Point of Light Award recognizes individuals and groups that address critical issues in their communities through service and volunteerism. The award is given each weekday to one volunteer or volunteer effort in the country.

President’s Volunteer Service Award
The President’s Student Service Award is now part of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a recognition program for Americans of all ages. The award is intended to recognize those individuals, families, or groups who contribute a significant amount of time to volunteer service. Depending on the number of hours served over a 12-month period, Bronze, Silver, or Gold awards can be earned.