Reflecting on Service

The key element of service-learning is reflection. Reflection provides volunteers the opportunity to make the connection between their service and a community issue or other learning goal. Through reflection volunteers can think about:

  • Their service: what they did (or will do, or are doing)
  • How it affected them
  • The impact it made on the community
  • Future action they can take

Leading the Reflection Experience

Reflection can take place anytime during a volunteer’s service. The staff or SVLs should be prepared to lead volunteers through this experience. Consider the following ideas for creating the best environment for reflection discussions at a service project:

At the Beginning:
Reflection can be included in volunteer orientation. For example: Ask a representative of the community agency to discuss the organization's mission and purpose. As a group, explore how the work being completed will directly impact that community. The community agency representative can also use this time to discuss the ongoing volunteer opportunities available with the agency and sign up individuals who are interested. SVL Note: SVLs should have this conversation with the agency during project planning. This will enable them to better understand the issue and to make sure their project will have the greatest impact possible.

During the Project:
You can facilitate reflection while students are serving. For example: If volunteers are engaged in tasks that are quiet or not labor intensive, lead discussion while they are working. If students are engaged in tasks that prevent discussion, one reflection idea is to post flyers around the service site with facts about the issue to encourage students to think about and discuss the impact of their service. Another idea is to have a large banner available for volunteers to jot down their reflections throughout the project.

At the End:
Once service has been completed, gather everyone around and engage people in conversation by asking them to share their stories about what was accomplished during the event. Make arrangements to include people from the community served in a post-service discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion ask people to make a commitment to assist that community agency with their needs and commit to inspiring others in their community.

After the Project:
Students can continue reflecting on their service after the actual project ends. For example: Through follow-up correspondence, service celebrations, or other activities, you can continue to keep students informed and motivated about the issue.

Now let's look at a model for service-learning experiences to see how building campus partnerships and incorporating reflection activities into service projects can connect a student's service to the learning objectives.