How important is reflection?
Reflection is a
critical component of Service-Learning. It is, in fact, what turns
volunteer work into a learning opportunity. If the students aren’t
provided with opportunities to reflect on their experience, they are not
making the connection between their work in the classroom and that in
following list of frequently asked questions about reflection, compiled
by National Campus Compact, can help guide you as you incorporate
reflection into your Service-Learning course.
is structured reflection?
Service-Learning programs provide opportunities for people to reflect
critically on their service experience.
Service-Learning projects can be used to reinforce course content
and to develop a variety of competencies including critical thinking,
communication skills, leadership, a sense of civic responsibility and
multicultural understanding. Structured
reflection can help students make meaningful connections between their
service experience and course content, and in the process develop
The term structured
reflection is used to refer to a thoughtfully constructed process that
challenges and guides students in (1) examining critical issues related
to their Service-Learning project, (2) connecting the service experience
to coursework, (3) enhancing the development of civic skills and values,
and (4) assisting students in finding personal relevance in the work.
is structured reflection critical to effective Service-Learning?
Reflection is a
critical component of all experience-based pedagogies. However, a
well-designed reflection process is particularly important in
Service-Learning for the following reasons:
- Textbooks and lectures
use techniques such as highlighting key points, examples, clarifying
common misconceptions, and summaries to facilitate student learning.
In contract, experience provides few explicit guides to
learning. Students need
to be challenged, encouraged, and supported in reflecting on service
projects and in connecting these experiences to coursework.
- Experience is
unstructured and messy. Real-world
projects are not simple applications of concepts and rules learned
in the classroom. The
tasks of collecting information, framing the problems, identifying
alternatives and recommending and justifying solutions appropriate
to specific contexts are challenging tasks.
Reflection activities such as project logs and journals
provide opportunities for students to share project progress and
concerns on an ongoing basis. Project
effectiveness and student learning can both be enhanced by reviewing
student reflection and providing guidance.
- The importance of
structured reflection is underscored by the realization that a
significant portion of the learning experience cannot be observed or
controlled by the instructor. Faculty
may not be privileged to the complexity of detail in a service
project, yet faculty are expected to provide guidance to students in
addressing problems. Further, different students/teams can be
involved in different project. Thus unlike textbook problems/cases,
it may be difficult to integrate discussion of project details in
classroom discussion. A
carefully structured reflection process can facilitate the exchange
of relevant information between students, faculty, and the community
in a timely manner.
- Reflection is also
important because students need a safe space for grappling with the
range of emotions that arise from a service experience.
should reflection occur?
Effective service learning requires more than a report or
presentation at the end of the semester.
Faculty must provide numerous opportunities for reflection
before, during, and after the experience.
An ongoing process of reflection enhances student faculty
communication and provides faculty with a better understanding of
student projects, problem-solving efforts, and progress.
Such communication can help in improving project effectiveness as
well as student learning.
The role of reflection varies according to the stage of the
project. Reflection before
the project can be used to prepare students for the Service-Learning
preparation is key to the effectiveness of Service-Learning.
At this stage, reflection can be used to teach students
concepts/theories required for the project, orient them towards the
community organization its needs, and offer them problem-solving skills
to address the challenges that will arise in the community setting.
During the project faculty can use reflection to encourage
students to learn independently while providing feedback and support as
needed to enhance student learning.
Reflection not only offers faculty an opportunity to reinforce
the connection of course content with the service experience but also
allows faculty an opportunity to seize the teachable moments that arise
Reflection after the service experience has ended
can help student evaluate the meaning of the experience, grasp their
emotional responses to the experience, think about the integration of
knowledge and new information, and begin to explore further
are the different types of reflective activities that can be used in
A variety of activities can be used
to facilitate student reflection. Faculty
can require students to keep journals, organize presentations by
community leaders, encourage students to publicly discuss their service
experiences and the learning that ensued, and require students to
prepare reports to demonstrate their learning.
When constructing the reflection activities faculty should
consider the following:
Reflection activities should involve individual learners and
address interactions with peers, community members, and staff of
Students with different learning styles may prefer different
types of activities. Faculty
should select a range of reflective activities to meet the needs of
Different types of reflection activities may be appropriate
at different stages of the service experience. For example, case studies
and readings can help students prepare for the service experience.
Reflection activities can involve reading,
writing, doing, and telling.
Some examples of
reflective activities follow:
- Class/group discussions
- Oral reports to class
- Discussions with community members or experts on the issue
- Public speaking on the project
- Teaching material to younger students
- Testimony before policymaking bodies, such as: school
- Essay, research paper, or final paper
- Personal narratives
- Journal or log (See Three Levels of
- Case study or history
- Narrative for a video, film, or slide show
- Newspaper, magazine, and other published articles
- Photo, slide, or video essay
- Paintings, drawings, or collages
- Dance, music, or theater presentations
Almonte Paul, Dorell, Haffalin et.al.
Service Learning at Salt Lake Community College, A Faculty