Service-Learning Reflection

Why is reflection so important?

Reflection is at the heart of service-learning – doing service without reflecting is “like eating without digesting.”

Reflection helps you to . . .

  • Explore service and the meaning behind service experiences.
  • Focus on learning from the community and environment.
  • Connect coursework with “real life.”
  • Clarify goals and values.
  • Highlight strengths and areas needing improvement.
  • Evoke constructive evaluation of the effort, the school, and the community.

How do we do reflection?

Reflection should be ongoing – it should happen before, during, and after engaging in service. It can be formal or informal, and can be facilitated through a variety of activities.
Most professors direct students to reflect on the service experience in writing. Some ask their students to give short presentations to the rest of the class, or to meet for regular discussions about the experience. Journaling is also a popular assignment. Other types of reflection are listed below.
Nearly every student must complete a written assignment to address the following items:

  1. How the service experience helped you learn the material specific to your course;
  2. What you learned about yourself;
  3. What you learned about the world beyond the classroom, the community in which you had the service experience;
  4. What you intend to do in the future about the issues highlighted by the service experience.

Service-Learning Reflection Guidelines

Writing about your service-learning experiences derives meaning from your service. Your reflection paper will enable your instructor to see the learning you’ve done through your service. Your instructor may give you a guide for this paper, and it may be included in your syllabus.

One Chaminade student explains:

“One of the differentiating points between volunteering or classroom learning, as compared to service-learning, is the heavy emphasis on reflection. Although some learning is gained through the actual physical service, I found that the bulk and core of the learning is done during careful reflection. Reflection, in my opinion, is one of the very uniquely human things that helps us make sense of the world we live in and clarify our wants, needs, goals, and values.”

Before, during, AND after your service, think critically! Some of your answers to the following may change over time.

  • What will/did you do? What is the impact of your service?
  • How do you feel about it? Why – What underlies?
  • What needs does your project address? What are the causes of those needs?
  • How do people contribute to the problem? How can we help to solve it?
  • What did you do that was effective or ineffective in service to others?
  • What did you learn about your own value to your agency?
  • What are you learning about yourself: your wants, needs, goals, values, skills, and attitudes?
  • How does your understanding of the community change as a result of your experience?
  • How do you see your role with this project? How does that compare with how others may see your role?
  • How does your service connect with what you’re learning in class?
  • How can you continue your involvement in these issues? How can you raise others’ awareness?

These questions will help you frame your experience and guide your critical-thinking about it. However, you should defer to your instructor’s guidelines when writing to fulfill your assignment.

View an example reflection paper.


Types of Reflection for Service-Learning

  • Journals
  • Experiential Research Paper
  • Ethical Case Studies
  • Directed Readings
  • Class Presentations and discussions
  • Electronic Reflection