Training, Education & Reflection

Strategy  •  Background  •  Available Resources


Each campus implements an education, training, and reflection calendar to support the four-year Bonner Student Development Model and the related learning outcomes.  These meetings provide a sequenced, progressive exploration of the skills, knowledge, values, and competencies needed for Bonner service work in local communities and beyond. Bonner staff and student leaders collaborate to develop and facilitate a regular series of meetings, retreats, and speakers that also bring in other campus staff, faculty, and community partner staff to lead sessions.


Presentation on Bonner student development goals, frameworks, and training , education, and reflection curriculum.

Because the Bonner Program model links participating students’ work expectation to their financial aid package, Bonners are able to engage in 10 hours of service per week throughout the school year.  Approximately 20% of that time (roughly 50 hours per year) is dedicated to education, training, and reflection through structured workshops. In 2018-2019, the Bonner Foundation updated its curriculum resources for these meetings by articulating 8 Themes, one for each semester in the program. Below, you can learn more about this structure and its importance.

The intentionality and time that each program provides through education, training, and reflection is an important component of its quality and impact. Meetings, which are held by class year as well as for the full cohort, help Bonners to develop a sense of community and to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and grow over four years.  In fact, our Bonner Student Impact and Bonner Alumni Surveys tell us that the strongest elements of the Bonner Program for students are opportunities for dialogue across differences, mentor relationships, and structured reflection that complements and magnifies students’ experiences in service.  All of these activities and more take place during regularly scheduled Bonner Program meetings. By strategically building in meetings that support a set of competencies tied to the Bonner Student Development framework, these workshops enhance students' learning and project work off campus, encourage a sense of belonging, promote accountability, foster campus-wide and community connections, and lead to high levels of retention and graduation. 

Connection to Community Impact

Much of the curriculum was designed to ensure that Bonner Scholars and Leaders are well trained and prepared to engage successfully in community contexts off campus (locally, nationally, and even internationally over their four years). For instance, the two themes for the First Year provide education and exposure to key concepts for effective community engagement. Through workshops in Semester 1, students learn how to Explore Identity and Place, engaging in getting to know themselves, the local community, and their peers. In Semester 2, Moving from Service to Solutions workshops guide students to think more critically about their service work, its root causes, and potential solutions. Additionally, through All Bonner Meetings that focus on the Common Commitments, like Community Building and Diversity, students gain aptitudes to work productively with people who are different from them and to identify and implement effective strategies to improve the wellbeing of individuals and families, the environment, and communities. This learning continues each semester of the program, as students also often participate in specific trainings offered by community partners on their issue and engage in ongoing reflection with peers, faculty, and staff to make sense of their experiences. All of our curriculum is designed to reflect Kolb’s model (1984) of experiential learning, where students internalize learning and grow through a cycle of “what, so what, and now what.”


As students progress through the Bonner Program, these meetings also guide them to make connections between what they are learning in class and what they are learning and doing through community engagement. In many programs, students enroll in courses that complement their civic work, providing them with issue-based education, methodology (such as for research), and deeper learning. These connections are also promoted through Bonner led meetings. For instance, through workshops from the 8-part Bonner Capstone Series, students begin to identify a “sweet spot” where their civic work, academic interests, and personal and career interests can be combined. Additionally, in Semester 3, workshops guide students in Developing as a Leader, which they can do both in their partner sites and on campus by mobilizing their peers. In Semester 4, students learn how to research and Know an Issue connected with their civic work.

As some schools, these sophomore Bonners research and produce a formal PolicyOptions Issue Brief related to their primary service site or interests.  Their research takes an issue, like childhood hunger, and presents the local scope of the problem, what programs and policies have been tried in the past, what policies and programs are currently in place, and who the key organizations and individuals are locally and statewide addressing the issue. 


This progression prepares students to take on more sophisticated challenges in their service, including projects like volunteer management and organizational development, curriculum and training development, program development, fundraising, research, communications, and more. Semester 5 workshops prepare students in Planning and Managing Projects in a way that asks them to Semester 6 workshops on Building Organizational Capacity help expose students to all of these possibilities and how nonprofit, school, and government partners build and assess capacity. Workshops from the Bonner Capstone Series support students to create a project that they complete in their junior and/or senior year that meets an identified community request or need, while also leveraging students’ learning.

MAKING AN IMPACT ON Higher Education

As students move toward their senior year, they are guided to reflect back and integrate their learning across their Bonner Program and college experiences. Semester 7 workshops help students Prepare for Civically Engaged Lives, such as by identifying potential post-graduate pathways, improving and getting feedback on their resume, practicing interviewing, and completing their capstone project. Semester 8 workshops guide students to Leave a Legacy, for instance by formally transitioning leadership of their project and site work to another student leader and preparing a cumulative Presentation of Learning to share with younger peers, campus-wide and community audiences. They also focus on their own successful post-graduate transitions, such as through financial literacy, budgeting, and wellness. As each Bonner Program celebrates its graduates each spring, they also mark how its students have made a lasting difference on campus and in the community. As outstanding students, they are also making an impact on the institution itself, by demonstrating how a developmental cohort program like Bonner produces greater levels of student success while enacting its mission and public purpose.

Seen as a whole, as in the graphic below, Education, Training, and Reflection plays an important role in supporting students through a powerful sequence of development.

Next Steps

In the last year, we have updated the Bonner Developmental Progression to reflect the more ambitious pathway Bonners are pursuing in their four years in the program (see attached chart). To support them to more effectively develop the knowledge, skills, and values on this pathway, we have introduced a set of training, education, and reflection themes for each of the eight semesters a Bonner is in the program.

With feedback from our participating schools, we anticipate revising the scope and sequence of 8-themes curriculum for stronger alignment between the Bonner Student Development model and the curriculum.

Available  Resources

On the Bonner Wiki you can access our collection of workshop modules and view the recommended 8 Themes Calendar, as well as a large number of other structured curriculum guides. We organize these guides so that campus programs can access them in a number of ways including:

The 8 Themes Curriculum Linked to Bonner Developmental Model where you can find the 32 workshops that fit the themes described above;

In the area of Dialogue Across Diversity & Inclusion which include workshops that educate students to work effectively with diverse individuals and communities and about historical and social inequities and oppression, including around race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and physical ability. These workshops, too, are laid out developmentally and often linked to All Bonner and cohort meetings. They often teach students how to engage in difficult dialogue.

In the areas of the Common Commitments which, besides Diversity and Civic Engagement, address Community Building, International Perspective, Spiritual Exploration, Social Justice. Through a range of activities – hands on learning, simulations, reading and engagement with literature, artistic and introspective activities, and project-based learning – each campus creates a robust set of education, training, and reflection experiences.