Critical Service-Learning Reflection Tool


Duke Service-Learning created a critical service-learning self-assessment and integrated resource tool for faculty looking for support in implementing critical or justice-oriented service-learning. Our tool is built on the idea that social justice service-learning is both a process and an outcome, and thus the tool supports faculty in integrating the pedagogy, academic content, and praxis of implementing critical service-learning.

Designing educational experiences that speak to historic and contemporary social justice issues can be a significant challenge. To aid in the design process, our team created a reflection tool to help instructional teams align service-learning and other experiential education practices with social justice commitments and goals. To learn more about the creation and revision of our tool please read  “Designing Service-Learning to Enhance Social Justice Commitments: A Critical Reflection Tool”.

Developed for experiential education and service-learning practitioners with various levels of familiarity with critical theory, the Critical Service-Learning Conversations Tool is a reflection and planning instrument. The tool is intended to support all collaborators involved in service-learning  (e.g., instructors, students, staff, community members) in reflecting critically on their design and implementation and in setting actionable goals that move their practices beyond performative, discursive, or tokenistic commitments to social justice. 



After a campus visit from Tania Mitchell in 2016, student activists, staff, and faculty associated with Duke Service-Learning created a “Critical Service-Learning Reflection Tool” (Stith et al., 2018) to support the implementation of critical pedagogy and advance social justice in service-learning courses.

In our work with service-learning faculty and staff at several institutions, instructors have reported that despite their interest in critical service-learning, they struggle with the choices and trade-offs involved in designing their courses accordingly. Our reflection tool aimed to provide guidance and accountability to make tangible shifts in practices. 

In 2020, the original members of the tool creation team (Michaela Stith, Dane Emmerling, and David Malone) were joined by new team members (Treniyyah Anderson, Robert Bringle, Patti Clayton, Ryan Nilsen, and Kathy Sikes) to create a revised version of the tool.



    We developed the five themes from reading the critical service-learning literature and from our own experiences with community-engaged pedagogies designed to promote social justice. The tool includes statements grouped into these five themes:

    1. Reckoning with Systems
    2. Authentic Relationships
    3. Redistribution of Power
    4. Equitable Classrooms & Cognitive Justice
    5. Social Change Skills


    • We encourage you to think about only one service-learning experience at a time. 
    • For that experience, read the statements thinking about your sphere of influence to make specific changes in the service-learning experience. For each statement respond: 
      • I’m already doing this rather well.
      • I’m doing this somewhat, and I would like to enhance this.
      • I’m not doing this, but I would like to consider adding this at some time.
      • I’m not doing this, and I don’t think I’ll do this in the near future.
    • Read the statements again thinking about the extent to which each of the constituents of collaborators (i.e., instructors, students, staff, community members) in the service-learning experience are participating in the statement
    • Star the statements which you would like to take tangible steps towards implementing.

    Action Planning

    • Choose the statements that you believe would be both feasible and impactful on the experience to implement
    • Use the action planning tool to support your creation of a plan to strengthen your implementation of the statements