Reflection in Action (adapted from "Learning Through Service"
Several service-learning researchers (Eyler, Giles & Schmiede, 1996) have named the characteristics of successful reflection:
· Continuous: Reflection must take place before, during, and after the completion of the service project to be fully useful.
· Challenging: Effective reflection involves pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones to make new connections between concepts and to think in new ways.
· Connected: Successful reflection can serve as a bridge between the service experience and our discipline-based academic knowledge.
· Contextualized: Effective reflection is framed in a manner that is appropriate for the context in which the service experience takes place.
But why should you bother with reflection? Why is there so much stress on reflection in service-learning classes? Well, reflection is a bridge between what you, the student, learn in class and what you are experiencing in the community. Reflection helps you connect what you have been absorbing through the course content with the community outside of the college campus.
Students who reflect often benefit in many other ways. Mabry (1998) found that, those who reflected on their service-learning course credited more learning to the service experience than students who participated in the service project but did not reflect. Eyler and Giles (1999) also noticed the positive impact that reflection had on grades for college students. Also, scientists have found that written reflection about emotional events can help reduce anxiety and depression (Pennebaker, 1990; Bringle & Hatcher, 1999). In an experimental study in which students wrote for four consecutive days on either traumatic events or superficial topics, Pennebaker, Kiecolt-Glaser, and Glaser (1988) found that students who reflected on traumatic life events had more favorable immune system responses, less frequent health center visits, and felt better about themselves. The most important difference between students who showed health improvement and those who did not was a greater ability to include casual thinking, insights, and self-reflection in their stories. Activities that promote meaningful reflection on service-learning experiences may lead to intellectual and health benefits.