Goals of Reflection

3. What are the goals of reflection?

Service-learning can be used to support a variety of educational goals. Educators have defined and organized service-learning goals in different ways.

One critical goal for reflection is to help students make connections between the service activity and coursework. Reflection can be used to help students understand how to apply course knowledge to service-learning projects, and to assimilate and link the service experience back to course work. By incorporating such reflection, students get a deeper understanding of course material. At the same time, the quality of the service is enhanced if students are encouraged to reflect upon the responsible use disciplinary knowledge in their service settings.

Another goal for structured reflection is the development or refinement of critical thinking skills such as being able to identify issues, being receptive to new or different ideas, and foreseeing the consequences of one's actions.

Structured reflection can reinforce and foster a range of competencies identified in service-learning, including communication and teamwork skills, self-understanding, leadership and public problem solving. These are skills and competencies critical to students' ethical development and civic responsibility.

Regardless of the outcomes emphasized in a particular service project, the reflection process must be structured to reinforce specific educational outcomes that faculty have identified as critical in the course. For example, if critical thinking is a goal, then faculty must design reflective exercises that help students understand the uncertainties inherent in the service-learning project, identify a range of possibilities for addressing those uncertainties, and examine these possibilities from the perspective of different stakeholders. Faculty cannot assume that the service experience will automatically result in enhanced problem-solving skills; an intentional, ongoing process is required for coaching students and helping them acquire such skills.

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