The Reflection Interview
The interview requirement for any youth award is an important part of assessing their progress and development. In Scouting, the Scoutmaster Conference is an important part of the requirements for any rank advancement. Similarly, the Reflection Interview is used to finalize the earning of the new Vanguard religious awards: the Light and Truth award and the Vanguard award.
To a new leader, conducting this type of interview may be confusing, intimidating, or in other ways difficult, so I would like to review key points related to it, and how it relates to religious awards as well.
The Troop Leader Resources page on Scouting.org is a great place to start and defines the Scoutmaster Conference requirement. The Scoutmaster conference allows the Scoutmaster to review:
- a Scout’s growth in his understanding of Scouting’s ideals
- how the Scout applies these ideals in his daily life and in the troop
- the requirements of the Scout’s next rank so that he can be properly encouraged
In a Scout-run troop, the Scoutmaster does not assert his authority, but guides and counsels every Scout so the troop can function well and serve the purposes of Scouting. The Scoutmaster conference is one of the primary ways the Scoutmaster does this.
You will notice that the explanation describes what the conference is for and the goals of the conference, but not necessarily how to do it. That is left up to the Scoutmaster and I want to focus on why that is. Before we do that, however, there are some ground rules for this type of interview. These include things such as being in full view and not being alone with the Scout, not re-testing the Scout on requirements, etc. These basic rules are reviewed in depth in a Scouting Magazine article entitled “Understanding the Scoutmaster Conference.”
Now that the basics are reviewed, I would like to share some thoughts about why this conference is so important. The most significant feature about this type of interview is the fact that it lacks a definite structure. The leader is not bound by a particular requirement or list and this offers freedom to direct the conversation wherever it needs to go. I consider this to be the best part because it allows for the true needs of the scout to be addressed.
This type of approach has been useful to me in my professional career as a primary care physician. The comparison I’m referring to is the annual physical or check-up. During this doctor visit, there are a few routine things that must be addressed (like requirements), but the bulk of the visit is flexible to address whatever subjects or issues seem to be the most important or relevant to their health at the time. For some it may be diet or exercise, others it may be quitting smoking, and for some, it may be their emotional health, etc. The direction the visit takes is not usually predetermined but may be influenced by our past experience as well as any new concerns by the patient. In like manner, the conversation with a Scout during this semi-private interview may deal with past experiences in troop activities or some present concerns. Then it may turn to future goals and needs.
If any structure is placed on this type of interview, it could mirror the objectives above:
- Review growth and understanding (Past)
- Review application in daily life (Present)
- Review next goals and provide encouragement (Future)
The Reflection Interview for Religious Awards
Each religious award has different requirements but most may have some type of interview with a leader – either a Scout leader or a religious leader. In any case, the principles of this type of interview are relevant.
The Reflection Interview for the Vanguard Award or Light and Truth Award also will have no set requirements but will offer an opportunity for an uplifting conversation about their experience while working on the award. The focus could be on how they developed faith and testimony (Past), how they live the Gospel and their family relationships (Present), or their missionary preparation or church service (Future). There is a myriad of other topics that could be discussed but it is important to lead the discussion and engage the Scout as much as possible.
There is much more that could be added when talking about interviewing skills and techniques that are beyond this discussion. A trusted resource would be anything regarding the technique of “motivational interviewing” including a book by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (link). In this book, the four processes of motivational interviewing are described: engaging, focusing, evoking, and planning. The goal is to help the interviewee to be motivated to change or improve. The method is to help them discover or decide what to do rather than telling them what to do. This enhances their commitment and helps produce follow-through. There are likely many more books or sources on interviewing skills that could also be referenced, but time does not permit them to be listed here.
Interviewing is a very important skill as a Scout leader, a parent, or any other leadership position. Making sure that we do it well will help everyone’s growth and development and make it a more positive experience overall
– Matt McIff, Vice President of Program, Vanguard International Scouting Assoc.