Reflection in Action

We have learned what it takes to make groups work or not work, the role of cultural diversity within our group and community, so now we need to bring reflection into play so that we can continue to work toward the end result of being successful with our service learning experience!

Reflection is the means by which the service experience is linked to learning, and that learning is then manifested as meaning. Some characteristics of successful reflection include:

1. Continuous – The reflection should take place before, during and after completion of the service-learning project to have the most benefit.

1. Challenging – The reflection should lead to a “push” to help us think outside of our comfort zone to be able to make new and different connections between concepts and situations.

1. Connected – The reflection serves as a bridge between the service experience and our discipline-based academic knowledge.

1. Contextualized – The reflection is framed in a manner that is appropriate for the context in which the service experience takes place.

You may be wondering “why reflection is necessary?” Can’t one just go through the tasks within the service-learning experience to reach the end goal? If we look back at the definition of reflection, we see that a deeper learning can be manifested as meaning. Therefore, reflection serves the purpose of bridging what a student is learning academically in class, and experiencing in the community.

Reflection allows for the real-life integration to take place. Service-learning involves teaching and learning that promote content, process, and socially relevant knowledge. The reflection aspect is the key connecting all of these types of learning so that they can then be applied to the community.

The following Service-Learning Cycle incorporates reflection as part of the foundational elements:

Pre-service reflection:

1. Identifying a project

1. Planning and preparation allows us to look at the potential problems and solutions that could arise

Reflection during service:

1. Meaningful service experiences allow for reflection regarding how to connect the content of academics with the service and personal learning experiences,

1. Observation

1. Analysis allows us to “think outside of the box” beyond the basic description of our service-learning project to a deeper application within the community.

Post–service reflection:

1. New understanding of the community issues increases our self- awareness for the overall meaning behind the service-learning goal.

1. New application allows for assessment and evaluation of our accomplishments met through meeting the service-learning goals.

If reflecting plays a key role in learning and how that knowledge can be applied to the community, it only makes sense to have a better understanding of how our experience within the service-learning project leads to learning.

The Experiential Learning Model explains through the following four stages how experience is a cornerstone and learning is viewed as a process by which knowledge is created through transformation of experience.

1. Concrete experience – Recognizing a fundamental difference from our previous experiences.

1. Reflective observation – These are the reflections from our reactions from the concrete experience.

1. Abstract conceptualization– Connecting acquired knowledge to redescribe experience from a conceptual versus descriptive perspective.

1. Active experimentation – We can now see real-life applications from the abstract conceptualization stage.

This chapter also focuses on deep reflection, which allows a deep analyzes of a service learning experience from a personal, observational, and also through connection, which brings us to the DEAL model, which is a critical thinking process that is used to demonstrate a person’s response to a service learning experience by simply generating learning, which is the bases of reflection by describing the experience, examining it, and articulate learning.

As we have seen, reflecting goes with learning, and learning goes with reflecting. Depending on the experience being reflected upon, one mode of reflection may be more beneficial than others. These modes include writing, activities, multi-media and telling. Regardless of the mode, reflection allows individuals to learn and by learning, we can apply.