Reflection Strategies

There are many ways in which faculty can facilitate reflection among students. Below are several very successful methods the Service Learning Program suggests utilizing. The following is adapted from the Service-Learning Faculty Handbook, The Service-Learning Center, Virginia Tech.

The program staff is also beginning to facilitate in-class reflection sessions-- if you are interested in this opportunity, please contact Kim Jensen Bohat, the Service Learning Program Director, for more information.


These need not be focused on the service aspect of the students’ experiences, but course concepts. Discussions offer a forum which encourage students (both traditional and service-learning) to process and relate what they are studying, doing, and learning, and is an opportunity for the instructor to emphasize key concepts through the examples provided by the students.

Journals & Blogs

It is important to guide students in their journals or blogs so that they are not simply logs of events. The students should be encouraged to address objective events, subjective impressions, and an analytic response, at the very least, in each journal entry. In addition, some instructors include specific guided questions which assist students to integrate their experience with particular course concepts. Journals are reviewed periodically by the faculty member during the semester. If students are utilizing a blog, the faculty member is able to leave comments and/or additional questions for the student, and can be notified via e-mail when the student responds to these questions or comments. For more information on journals and blogs, please click here.


In the classroom, students explore a broad concept or issue by examining its impact on a local entity, incorporating the experience of the service-learning students whose service addresses the issue. For instance, students might study the availability of health care in the community in studying the local free clinic.

Analytical Papers

In contrast with traditional research papers, service-learners can incorporate examples from their service experiences with course material to demonstrate their learning. Analytical papers might include:

  • a detailed description of the type of work they did, the environment and goals of the agency and/or project, and a summary of their experiences;
  • an evaluation of the purpose and meaning of their service and the needs met, what they learned from their experience, the strengths and limitations of those addressing the issues and needs, and changes and improvements they would make in their service and the project or agency; and
  • an integration section in which students elaborate on how their service experience related to and /or conflicted with course concepts, affected their evaluation of or changed their assumptions about the material discussed in class, demonstrated ways in which academic learning is relevant and can be applied in the community, and ways in which their experience impacted their educational and/or career goals.


Compiling an array of materials related to their service, portfolios help contextualize students’ experiences. Some service learning portfolios consist of other reflection elements, such as a journal, a paper or presentation. They can also hold artifacts from the service project such as pictures, brochures, newspaper clippings, articles, etc. Both faculty and students can be very creative with the portfolio concept and find many ways to use it.


A wiki is a Web site that allows all users to edit what appears on a Web site. This type of Web site is an excellent way for students to share, post, and discuss photos, news articles, and resources collected and created over a semester of Service Learning. Students can post upcoming events at their agencies, share their experiences at their community agency, etc. Wikis give the opportunity for anyone in the community to contribute, including professors and community partners.


Following the same format as the analytical paper, students can describe, evaluate, and integrate their service with the course, while also using visual materials and responding to questions to convey their learning to the instructor and class.

Reading Responses

Students write about their service experience in relation to assigned course readings. The questions you formulate for their responses can be open-ended or pointed in helping students think critically about the academic material in a real-world context. This activity can be particularly valuable when the readings incorporate similar issues as those being confronted by the students (in their service agencies and projects).

Reflection Groups

The Service-Learning Center sponsors student reflection group sessions during the semester in which students can discuss their experiences and the meanings of their service. While reflection groups are not specific to course content, students are asked to consider how their service activities relate to the subject matter of their courses. (Note: The Service Learning Program at Marquette also holds similar sessions throughout each semester. These are planned and facilitated by our student staff. Please encourage your service learners to attend!)

Student Forums

Via electronic or in-class forum groups, students respond in writing to discussion questions and to each other. Each student should talk about or post a response to the week’s reflection question and a response to at least one other student’s entry. Some discussion questions may be directly related to course reading, others may be more open-ended regarding their service or personal perceptions and experiences. You respond to students as appropriate and can use their entries in the forum for future discussion topics.