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Community-Based Experiential Education : Reflection

Use this guide to find information for service learning, community service and related topics.


Why Reflection

As a university, we offer many community opportunities that can support the JWU mission goals of citizenship education and global learning, but these learning outcomes are not automatic. Student participants need guidance in the form of orientation, reflection and ongoing support in order to process experiences and articulate lessons learned to get full learning benefit. In fact, we have found that community service can actually reinforce negative stereotypes if students are not provided with background knowledge, context and the opportunity to process their experiences in a constructive way. By talking through their observations and feelings, any assumptions or misunderstandings can be put into context by a skilled facilitator. Reflection is another way of saying, “learning that comes from experience”. When we combine community work with reflection, we may refer to it as “service-learning”; whether it is in the traditional classroom model or taking place outside of the classroom- when we combine community service work with intentional and reflective learning strategies, we are doing service-learning. Students who engage in structured reflection report greater learning outcomes from their service experiences than those who do not. (J. Beth Mabry, “Pedagogical Variations in Service-Learning and Student Outcomes: How Time, Contact and Reflection Matter,” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 5 (1998): 34)

What is Reflection

John Dewey defined reflection as ‘active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends’ (Dewey 1933: 118)

“The term structured reflection is used to refer to a thoughtfully constructed process that challenges and guides students in (1) examining critical issues related to their service-learning project, (2) connecting the service experience to coursework, (3) enhancing the development of civic skills and values, and (4) assisting students in finding personal relevance in the work.”

For more on how to incorporate critical reflection effectively in your classroom see the PDF of Importance of Reflection document.

Reflection Myths

1.       Reflection is a “fluff” assignment;

2.       Reflection assignments are always “open ended;”

3.       Reflection is done at the END of an experience;

4.       Reflection is always written;

5.       Reflection is an individual exercise;

6.       Reflection cannot be graded.

Perhaps you have been avoiding incorporating reflection into your CBEE classes, even though you know it is a “best practice” because of some of these myths. Take a few moments to read this easy to digest article about why these myths are false, and what reflection can do for your classroom.

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Below are some excellent resources on reflective practice. For additional resources, see our attached resource guide (Additional Reflection Resources)


J. Beth Mabry, “Pedagogical Variations in Service-Learning and Student Outcomes: How Time, Contact and Reflection Matter,” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 5 (1998): 34


A practitioner's guide to reflection in service-learning: Student voices & reflections

Talking Service: Readings for Civic Reflection

Lyons, Nona. Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry: Mapping a Way of Knowing for Professional Reflective Inquiry. New York: Springer, 2010. Print.


Service-Learning: Using Structured Reflection to Enhance Learning from Service

Center for Civic Reflection