Sample Reflection Assignments
Critical incidents journal
Ask students to record a critical incident for each week of the service project. The critical incident refers to events in which a decision was made, a conflict occurred, a problem resolved. The critical incident journal provides a systematic way for students to communicate problems and challenges involved in working with the community and with their teams and can thus help in dealing with the affective dimensions of the service experience.
Directed readings are a way to prompt students to consider their service experience without a broader context of social responsibility and civic literacy. Since textbooks rarely challenge students to consider how knowledge within a discipline can be applied to current social needs, additional reading must be added if this is a learning objective of the course. Directed readings can become the basis for class discussion or a directed writing.
Directed writings ask students to consider the service experience within the framework of course content. The instructor identifies a section form the textbook or class readings (i.e. quotes, statistics, concepts) and structures a question for students to answer. For example, “William Gray has identified five stages of a mentor-protégé relationship. At what stage is your mentoring relationship with your protégé at this point in the semester? What evidence do you have to support this statement? In the following weeks, what specific action can you take to facilitate the development of your mentoring relationship to the next stage of Gray’s continuum? A list of directed writings can be provided at the beginning of the semester or given to students as the semester progresses. Students may also create their won directed writing questions from the text. Directed writings provide opportunity for application and critical analysis of the course content.
Encourage formal/informal discussions with teammates, other volunteers, and staff to introduce students to different perspectives and to challenge students to think critically about the project.
Ethical case studies
Ethical case studies give students the opportunity to analyze a situation and gain practice in ethical decision-making as they choose a course of action. This reflection strategy can foster the exploration and clarification of values. Students write a case study of an ethical dilemma they have confronted at the service site, including a description of the context, the individuals involved, and the controversy or event that crated an ethical dilemma. Case students are read in class and students discuss the situation and identify how they would respond.
Interview students on service experiences and the learning that occurred in their projects.
Ask students to record thoughts, observations, feelings, activities and questions in a journal throughout the project. The most common form of journals are free-form journals. The journal should be started early in the project and students should make frequent entries. Explain benefits of journals to students such as enhancing observational skills, exploring feelings, assessing progress and enhancing communication skills. Faculty should provide feedback by responding to journals, class discussions of issue/ questions raised in journals or further assignments based on journal entries.
Ask students to select and organize evidence related to accomplishments and specific learning outcomes in a portfolio. Portfolios can include drafts of documents, analysis of problems/ issues, project activities/plans, photographs, videos, and annotated bibliography. Ask students to organize evidence by learning objectives.
A way for students to share their service learning experience with peers is to make a class presentation through a video, slideshow, bulletin board, panel discussion or persuasive speech. Ask students to present their service experience and discuss it in terms of concepts/theories discussed in class. This is an opportunity for students to display their work in public format. A similar presentation can be offered to the community agency as a final recognition of the students’ involvement.
Structured class discussion
Structured reflection session can be facilitated during regular class time if all students are involved in service. It is helpful for students to hear stories of success from one another. They can also offer advice and collaborate to identify solutions to problems encountered at the service site.
Use structured journals to direct student attention to important issues/ questions and to connect the service experience to classwork. A structured journal provides prompts to guide the reflective process. Some parts of the journal may focus on affective dimensions while others relate to problem-solving activities.
Use a team journal to promote interaction between team members on project related issues and to introduce students to different perspectives on the project. Students can take turns recording shared and individual experiences, reactions and observations, and responses to each other’s entries.
Adapted from Campus Compact, Types of reflective activities that can be used in service-learning projects, retrieved from http://www.compact.org/disciplines/reflection/types.html (accessed October 26, 2015) and “Tried and True Teaching Methods to Enhance Students’ Service-Learning Experience” complied by Professor Diane Sloan, Miami Dade Community College.