One benefit of service-learning is its potential to challenge students' stereotypes about persons whose backgrounds are different from their own. Inadequate preparation for diversity issues, however, can result in an experience that reinforces rather than breaking down stereotypes. Literacy tutoring, for example, can enhance students' visions of themselves as "saviors" bestowing their services upon undeserving "others" (Schutz & Gere 133).
Addressing stereotypes in class is the most effective safeguard against the perpetuation of stereotypical beliefs. Set parameters to discourage inappropriate comments in class as well as at service sites, but do provide an open forum for students' sincere questions and concerns. For example, students might fear entering an environment where they are uncertain what constitutes acceptable speech or behavior. In addition to classroom discussion, reflective writing can challenge students to articulate and examine their beliefs and enable to instructors to respond to individual concerns.
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