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Reflection is a key component to service-learning. It allows students, facilitators, and faculty to articulate the relation between course content and service-learning experiences. They use reflection activities and conversations to further comprehend the actions they’re taking in the community.

Reflection can take many forms:

  • Group discussions
  • Personal journaling
  • Interactive activities
  • Discussion of related research
  • Course assignments

Reflection Activities

  • Posed Sensation
    • Ask participants to notice a sensory stimuli (sound, smell, sight, etc.) and make a mental note of it.
  • Capturing
    • Participants each make a face, pose, or quick motion to indicate how they felt about the project
  • Snapshot
    • Create a snapshot of the service by starting with one person striking a pose to reflect the project and let everyone else join in.
  • Question Train
    • One person (usually the leader) poses a question about the service and everyone goes around the circle answering it
  • Journaling
    • Same as above, except everyone journals their answer
  • Poetry Slam
    • Take turns reading a short poem or sentence a group member writes about the service

This activity can take anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes and is great for a final group reflection or after a big event happened during service.

What? – describe the facts (without judgment) of what happened

  • Questions: What did we do? What happened? What issue(s) is/are being addressed or population is being served? What resulted from our work today? What did you notice? How did you feel about what happened today? (then ask what others felt)

So What? – discuss feelings, ideas, and analysis of the experience

  • Questions: Did you learn a new skill or clarify an interest? Did you notice anything that surprised you? What feelings or thoughts seem most important today? In what ways was this experience different than you expected? Did the service empower the recipient to become more self-sufficient? What did you learn about the people/community? How do you think the recipient thought and felt? 
  • Questions about community: What are some of the pressing issues in the community> How does this project address those needs? What about the community/society/culture led to the need for our service (while being very careful to remain culturally sensitive & humble)? With unlimited creativity and money, what is the most impact  on the community that you can imagine?
  • Questions about the group: In what ways did we work well together? In what ways could we work better together? How might the group have accomplished its task more effectively? In what ways did others help you today? Were everybody’s ideas listened to? What do we like about our group?

Now what? – consider the broader impacts of the service & apply learning

  • Questions: What seems to be the root causes of the social issue(s)? What else is happening to uproot this issue? What contributes to the continuation of this issue/what systemic issues are in place? What hinders success? Where are successes happening in this community?
  • Personal Questions: What did you learn through this process and service? How can you apply that learning to other areas? What, if any, changes do you want to make as a result of this experience? If you were in charge of the project, what would you have done differently? Now that we have hindsight, any changes that you’d have made to accomplish the service?

Information taken from and based on: “Learning through Service,” Kate McPherson, Project Service Leadership, and “Possible Outcomes of Service Learning,” National Youth Leadership Council.

There is not a right or wrong way to do reflection, as long as everyone feels included and heard without judgment. Service-Learning courses grow together through reflection of the functioning of the project and where it can be improved. They also reflect to recognize how the team could function better together. Most importantly, reflection gives everyone a sense of accomplishment and belonging within their Service-Learning course.

Check out how classes are interpreting reflection:

Newsletter — The Service-Learning Chronicles

Competencies: Reflection & Application; Evaluation; Decision Making

Last updated: 3/14/2022