Role of Reflection and Praxis in Community-Based Learning & Social Justice Work

Glen Rogers & Kathleen O’Brien, Alverno College ; Paul Burkhardt & Jack Herring, Prescott College

Presented to the Higher Learning Commission annual meeting of a comparison of National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data around mission-based outcomes.

“In community-based education, reflection is learning, everything else is just doing.” Building an engaged citizenry begins when students wrestle with real-world dilemmas, moving between theory, action and reflection on action.

To achieve a complex understanding of the unfamiliar, it is necessary to break with comfortable frameworks of interpretation in the reflective process. To promote deeper reflections, students in a community-based class kept ‘praxis notebooks’ that required them to move beyond descriptions of logistical challenges or emotional responses to their experiences in community agencies. In the social change series, the concept of praxis was chosen as the organizing framework because it required student to develop an intellectual relationship to their activism. Praxis, simply put, means action informed by theory.