Types of reflective activities that can be used in service-learning projects

A variety of activities can be used to facilitate student reflection. Faculty can require students to keep journals, organize presentations by community leaders, encourage students to publicly discuss their service experiences and the learning that ensued, and require students to prepare reports to demonstrate their learning. When constructing the reflection activities faculty should consider the following:
  • Reflection activities should involve individual learners and address interactions with peers, community members and staff of community agencies.

  • Students with different learning styles may prefer different types of activities. Faculty should select a range of reflective activities to meet the needs of different learners.

  • Different types of reflection activities may be appropriate at different stages of the service experience. For example, case-studies and readings can help students prepare for the service experience.

  • Reflection activities can involve reading, writing, doing and telling. Some examples of reflective activities are briefly described below:


Case studies Assign case-studies to help students think about what to expect from the service project and to plan for the service activity. Use published case-studies or instructor developed case-studies based on past service-learning projects.
Journals Ask students to 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.
Structured journals 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.
Team journal 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 others entries.
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.
Portfolios 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, annotated bibliography. Ask students to organize evidence by learning objectives.
Papers Ask students to write an integrative paper on the service project. Journals and other products can serve as the building blocks for developing the final paper.
Discussions 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.
Presentations Ask student(s) to present their service experience and discuss it in terms of concepts/theories discussed in class.
Interviews Interview students on service experiences and the learning that occurred in these experiences.