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Bonnie Hodges, Chair, Health Department


Definition:  academic reflection is critical thinking that supports students’ learning objectives.  


Reflection represents the critical difference between service-learning and its cousin, the internship, because it – reflection – encourages the student to explore ways in which his community project relates to his academic course and, importantly, to broader societal concerns that contextualize his course and his project.

It is an inductive process that begins with student-generated detail rich in multi-sensory specificity through which students identify patterns and progressions.  Those details come from students’ experiences and from outside sources such as readings. 

- Through their inductive thinking, students generate insight.   With this in mind, faculty and students should remember that

- The insight, the revelation, might not appear until the end of the reflective experience.  In a written reflection, for example, the thesis statement – the insight – won’t appear until the end of the piece

Within the boundaries of their prompts, reflections have no right or wrong responses; rather, they are open-ended musings about the details collected.  In this way, reflection is one of the engines through which service-learning becomes a constructivist methodology. 

It is also one of the service-learning processes that demand the professorial paradox:  the professor gains control of the learning situation by relinquishing control.  Students enjoy the right to make their own connections (with the responsibility of supporting the reasoning behind those connections, of course).  With this in mind, instructors should respond promptly to students’ work, and do so in the spirit of collaborative exploration:  instructors’ responses should include open-ended questions and paraphrases of students’ reflections.


Guidelines:  The 4C's Principle:  Reflection should be

- Continuous.  It should be scheduled regularly throughout the course 

- Connected systematically and purposively to course goals and objectives

- Challenging, requiring critical thinking and “discomfort in a ‘safe place’”

- Contextualized, linking the larger world to the service-learning experience