The Action-Reflection-Action method maximizes engaging the learner by requiring their active participation from the beginning. The learner must become personally familiar with the situation being studied. They may be asked to observe, but usually they must interview some individuals who are impacted by the problem addressed in the course. What makes this radically different from traditional education is that it is never abstract or irrelevant. When studying AIDS, they do not start with statistics about a disease, but with their neighbor who is suffering the impact of AIDS. When there is an ARA seminar about poverty and ethnic diversity, it is never simply a topic, but a reality that is impacting people they just interviewed, people who may have asked them, “What will you do for me?”
The result of this face-to-face exposure is often revealing. It may be disturbing, or even encouraging. But this crucial step of first-hand experience with real people—community members and their stories–tends to maximize motivation by connecting the head, the heart and the will, to seek solutions for their community. Instead of being recipients of information soon to be forgotten, they have taken the first step to becoming agents of transformation—Jesus’ hands and feet in their own sphere of influence.