Training, Education & Reflection

Strategy  •  Background  •  Next Steps  •  Available Resources


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.  

Presentation on Bonner four-year student development model and curriculum.

The time spent in training, education, and reflection is a powerful engine for the growth of Bonners over their four years in the program.  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 unstructured reflection.  All of these activities and more take place during regularly scheduled Bonner Program meetings. By strategically building in meetings within the Bonner Student Development framework, these meetings enhance students' skills, 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

The extensive and on-going education, training, and reflection that Bonners participate in over their four years equips them to be exemplary service leaders at their community partner agencies, which often think of them as part-time staff.

Some campuses in the Bonner Network have leveraged their Bonner training and outside speakers to provide professional development workshop opportunities for local community partner staff.  For instance, among other events for campus and community partners, Davidson College's Center for Civic Engagement hosts an annual Community Innovation Institute, a daylong event with speakers and breakout sessions to advance community change work and promote collaboration. 

Connection to Campus Impact

Campus community engagement centers increasingly are integrating some of the skill and knowledge-focused workshops so they are available for all student service leaders, including their Bonners.  

Link to Higher Education Impact

While only a relatively small number of campuses choose to start a Bonner Program, we have heard from many over the years that they regularly access the Bonner training modules and adapt them for their own service leadership programs and training workshops.  We welcome and encourage this sharing of models and resources, understanding that much of what we have to offer was developed and shared by others.


Each campus designs their own education, training, and reflection calendar based on 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.

Sample semester calendar of Bonner meetings.  Click to enlarge.

Campuses bring their Bonners together for an extended orientation before the school year starts, for weekly class and issue or site-based team meetings, and for periodic retreats or service trips or exchanges with other campuses in the Bonner Network.  Some programs are able to link these meetings to course credit. 

These regular meetings are a key part of the communication, enrichment, and training for Bonners. Meetings can range from two people getting together to plan a project to an entire Bonner "family" group at a campus attending a training session led by an outside facilitator. Although special projects will require special meetings, Bonner Programs have standard meeting times and locations scheduled in advance for effective operation of the Program. 

Bonner programs use a wide range of meeting types to achieve desired learning outcomes, support student development, track service project management, and build a sense community among the Bonners.

next steps

We are revisiting the recommended sequence of education, training, and reflection sessions for the Bonner Program to incorporate a new cornerstone expectation that every Bonner complete a junior/senior community-engaged capstone project.  These projects can either be a community-defined capacity-building project or a social action campaign.

The other impetus to refine the calendar of Bonner meetings is a recognition that it is becoming common for Bonners to take on service leadership roles in the Bonner Program and campus-wide as early as the second semester of their first year.  This acceleration through the early stages of the Bonner developmental model will require schools to adjust some of their first and second year education and training plans to better prepare students to select and begin planning and implementation of a capstone project in their third year.

Sample local issue brief on Childhood Hunger and Nutrition.   Click  to go to PolicyOptions Wiki.

Sample local issue brief on Childhood Hunger and Nutrition.  Click to go to PolicyOptions Wiki.

For instance, we will be piloting with a number of schools a sequence of trainings and presentations by Bonners in their second year who will research and localize a PolicyOptions Issue Brief related to their primary service site or interests.  Their research would compile information on the scope of the problem locally, 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 information puts into context the policy options and model programs that have proven successful in addressing the issue, or have been proposed but remain untested.


Available  Resources

On the Bonner Wiki you can access our collection of training modules and view the recommended four-year training calendar, as well as examples of Bonner programs’ training calendars.

There you will find a series of guides and an extensive collection of training modules to support this process.  The training modules are fully developed lesson plans for use in meetings, retreats, and even classroom settings. The training activities are built around the principles of active learning, often engaging participants through dialogue, problem-solving, case studies, scenarios, and project work. Developed initially in partnership with COOL (Campus Outreach Opportunity League), these training modules have been augmented to address the 27 Bonner skills and six Bonner Common Commitments