Applying Service Learning Experiences
Reflection is essential to service learning. Reflection is thinking about service experiences in order to connect service experiences and course content. Learning comes through thinking about what we do. Effective reflection helps integrate service and coursework.
Ideas for Reflection
Reflection occurs in the classroom, working with the community organization, or individually through course assignments. There are a wide range of meaningful reflective practices and strategies that can be incorporated into service-learning, including the frequently used approaches listed below.
- Journals: Writing in journals is widely used by service-learning programs to promote reflection. They're most meaningful when instructors pose key questions for analysis. (Example of questions: What? So What? Now What?)
- Ethnographies: Students capture their community experience through field notes.
- Case Studies Papers: Students analyze an organizational issue and write a case study that identifies a decision that needs to be made.
- Multimedia Class Presentations: Students create a video or photo documentary on the community experience.
- Theory Application Papers: Students select a major theory covered in the course and analyze its application to the experience in the community.
- Agency Analysis Papers: Students identify organizational structure, culture and mission.
- Speakers: Invite community members or organization staff to present in class on their issue area.
- Group Discussion: Through guided discussion questions, have students critically think about their service experiences.
- Community Events: Identify community events that students can attend to learn more about issues.
- Mapping: Create a visual map that shows how the service-learning experience connects to larger issues at the state/national/global level.
- Videos: View a video or documentary to elicit discussion about critical issues that relate to their service experiences.
- Letters-to-the Editor: Students write a letter-to-the-editor or to government officials that address issues important to the community organizations where they are working
- Creative Projects: Students make a collage or write a poem or song to express an experience.
- Blog: Create a course blog where students can post comments on their experiences.
- Reflective Reading: Find articles, poems, stories or songs that relate to the service and create discussion questions.