Structured reflection connects and reinforces in-class work, text book readings, and civic engagement experiences. It provides an opportunity to think critically about civic experiences, examine and challenge personal values, beliefs, and opinions. It provides a platform for students to ask questions, share ideas and experiences, challenge current solutions to community issues, and develop plans to address community needs.

It is important to incorporate structured reflection so that students develop a deeper understanding of course subject matter outside of the traditional classroom environment. Reflection promotes; interpersonal communication, problem solving skills, self-awareness, a sense of civic responsibility, and a sense of belonging.

Developing The Environment For Reflection

Providing a safe, respectful, and nurturing environment for you and your classmates to express the wide range of emotions experienced is necessary.

Types of Reflection

The sample questions below are basic and broad in nature. They are meant to give you an idea of how reflection may be structured in your classroom.

Group Discussions

Discussions can occur in several small groups or as one large group. Topics can vary but should be structured.

Examples for the beginning of the semester (may be used in journaling assignments as well):

  • What is the identified problem/community need?
  • How are you going to address that need?
  • How are you going to assess findings?
  • How will the findings be presented and to whom?
  • Why are you needed?

Examples for during the semester (may be used in journaling assignments as well):

  • How does your service-learning experience relate to the learning objectives of the course?
  • What did you do at their site since the last reflection discussion?
  • What did you observe?
  • What did you learn?
  • How has the experience affected you (how did you feel)?
  • What has worked?
  • What hasn’t worked?
  • What do you think is (will be) the most valuable service you can offer at your site?
  • What has been particularly rewarding about your service?
  • How could you improve your individual service contribution?
  • Have you taken any risks at your service site? If so, what did you do?
  • What were the results?
  • What would you change about your service assignment that would make it more meaningful for you or other service-learning students?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Has your service experience influenced your career choice in anyway?

Toward the end of the semester (may be used in journaling assignments as well):

  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • What have you learned about your community?
  • What have you contributed to the community site?
  • What values, opinions, beliefs have changed?
  • How has your willingness to help others changed?
  • What was the most important lesson learned?
  • How have you been challenged?
  • What impact did you have on the community?
  • What should others do about this issue?


A journal is a record of meaningful events, thoughts, feelings, interpretations and ideas. In this class your journal will be focused on service experiences and the learning you gain from the experience.

You may be asked to keep a journal to document experiences at the community site. These entries should include more than just what you did that day. Journals should include information on how you were affected by your experience. Journals may be collected and reviewed several times throughout the semester.

Why a service-learning journal?

  1. To practice writing
  2. To analyze service situations
  3. To articulate your own reactions to your service experience
  4. To record the learning you are experiencing and document progress toward the learning objectives.
  5. To develop recommendation for action or change

Examples of journaling assignment questions:

  • Describe your service-learning project. Include a description of the agency or organization you will be working for (i.e. what is their purpose? How big are they? What is their history? What is their mission? What are their goals?).
  • How is your service-learning experience related to the readings, discussions, and lectures in class?
  • How does the service-learning experience connect to your long-term goals?
  • What new skills have you learned since beginning your service?
  • What have you done this week to make a difference?
  • What characteristics make a community successful?
  • Report a civic experience you have had in the past. Include comments about what type of difference you made to those you served. How did you feel about your service? What if any attitudes or beliefs changed for you as a result of your service?
  • Describe what you have learned about yourself as a result of your service.


A final paper or several small papers throughout the semester may be an alternative to journaling or may be a way to organize what has been written in a journal.

Example: Describe the community site where you served, including the site’s mission and goals. What were your duties and responsibilities at the site? How has this experience changed your value and belief system? How has your service affected your own sense of civic responsibility?

In what ways has your service-learning experience made the course material relevant? Be specific and provide concrete examples.

Explain why your service was important to you and the service-learning site.


Your professor may utilize this medium as a way to present a collection of information obtained throughout the semester. It may include portions of your journal, pictures, community site information, brochures, etc. Portfolios may be used in a formal presentation or to hand in for grading.


Presentations may or may not be a part of the course. This medium can be used for you to showcase to your class, community site and/or college community your service-learning experience. This can be accomplished in a large group, in several small groups, or individually.