Student Reflection

Student Reflection

In the context of service-learning reflection is the “intentional consideration of an experience in light of a particular learning objective.”* The goals of reflection are for students to gain:

1. A further understanding of course content
2. A broader appreciation of the discipline
3. An enhanced sense of civic responsibility

The following are five recommended guidelines for effective reflection:

1.Clearly link the service experience to the course content and learning objectives

2. Provide structure in terms of description, expectations and the criteria for assessing the reflection activity

3. Conduct regularly during the term so that students can practice reflection and develop the capacity to engage in deep and broad reflection

4. Provide feedback about at least some of the reflection activities so that students learn how to improve their critical analysis and develop from reflective practice

5. Include the opportunity for students to explore, clarify and alter their values

6. Students can reflect in four main ways throughout the service-learning experience:

  • Writing: Journals, Essays, Publication, Reports
  • Speaking & Listening: Panel/group discussion, Presentations, Scenarios for discussion
  • Performing & Creative Arts: Role playing/acting, Interviewing classmates, Mock trial, Teaching collage, Drawing
  • Multimedia & Technology: Tri fold storyboard, Scrapbook, Video/photo essay, Chatroom, Webpage design, Twitter/blog

Several different types of journaling exist. Please refer to the list of journal types (PDF) for various models of journals. Faculty should try different types of journal styles, as taking a different approach engages students in different ways to enhance the learning experience.

Reflection questions geared towards different stages of the service-learning experience can be used with any of the styles mentioned above.

Sample Reflection Questions to use Prior to Service

  • Why do you do service?
  • How do you define community?
  • Who determines what's best for the community?
  • What is the mission of the community organization?
  • How will you help achieve this mission?

Sample Reflection Questions to use During Service

• Describe what you did--what did you see or observe while at your community partner site?
• How did you feel about the experience?
• Describe the people you met at the service site
• Name three things that stuck in your mind about the service experience
• Describe the atmosphere of the service site
• Describe some of your interactions
• What did the "body language" of the people tell you?
• How did the people's responses make you feel?
• How did the service site make you feel?
• What brings people to the service site (both people seeking service and the volunteers)?
• Are "strangers" welcomed at the service site? Why or why not?
• Describe what a typical day might be like for someone who uses the services of the  organization you worked with
• What would you change about this organization if you were in charge?
• What would you change about this service-learning course if you were the professor?
• What was the best/worst/most challenging thing that happened?
• Did you feel like a part of the community you were working in?

Sample Reflection Questions for During and After Service

• What connections do you find between the experience and your course readings or lectures?
• What new ideas or insights did you gain?
• What skills can you use or strengthen through working with your community partner?
• What knowledge or skills did you learn from this experience that you will apply in the  future?
• How were you different when you left the service location compared to when you entered?
• How are you similar/different to others (others in your service group? others seeking services? etc.)?
• In what ways did being different help/hinder the group?
• What have you learned about yourself?
• If you were one of the people receiving services, what would you think of yourself?
• How does this experience compare to other service experiences you have had?
• How does this course compare to other courses you have taken?
• What connections do you see between this experience and what you've learned in your  college courses?
• How has your service contributed to your growth in any of these areas: civic responsibility, political consciousness, professional development, spiritual fulfillment, social understanding, and intellectual pursuit?
• What have you learned about a particular community or societal issue?
• How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?
• Do you think these people (or situations) are unique? Why or why not?
• What public policies are involved and what are their implications? How can they be improved?
• Describe an internal or external conflict that has surfaced for you during your service work.
• Explain the factors that contribute to this conflict and how you might resolve or cope with the conflict.
• Discuss a social problem that you have come in contact with during your service work.
•What do you think are the root causes of this problem? Explain how your service may or may not contribute to its alleviation
• What could this group do to address the problems you saw at the service site?
• What could each participant do on his/her own?
• How can society better deal with the problem?
• How can this experience apply to other situations in your life?
• How can your solutions apply to other situations in your life?
• How can your solutions apply to other problem(s) of other groups?
• How can society be more compassionate/informed/involved regarding this community?
• What is the difference between generosity, charity, justice, and social change?
• Where do we go from here? What's the next step?

How to Assess Student Reflection

The method being used to assess student reflection should be presented before the students begin the reflective process. Students will be able to engage in reflection at different levels of understanding and with different abilities. Some reflection exercises may be graded complete/incomplete, while others may use rubrics as guidelines for definitive grades. For more information please refer to Bradley's Criteria for Assessing Levels of Reflection (PDF).

*Steven Jones. Introduction to Service-Learning Toolkit. Second Ed. Providence RI: Campus Compact, 2003. Print.