Cal Corps Public Service Center
Education for Justice
http://calcorps.berkeley.edu | 505 Eshleman | (510) 642-3916 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Regular reflection activities help to retain committed individuals, increase motivation,
awareness, leadership skills, group cohesion and meaning to any experience. Implementing
reflection varies because no two service-learning experiences or individuals are identical.
Here are some transcending principles.
Reflection is the most important part of service because it distinguishes serving learning from community
service. Both service fulfills a communal need with volunteering, but the former uses that need as a
reference to better understand oneself, others and the larger social context.
What is Reflection?
The process of thinking about our experiences and attributing meaning to them in order to connect it to
our lives, learn new things, increase understanding and analyze issues at a wider context. Reflection is the
balance between the experience speaking for itself and having someone say what should have received
from it. Reflection occurs naturally for all and is key to learning new things and increasing understanding.
How to Reflect
Each student group leader chooses reflection exercises that make the most sense or applicable to your
group or service experience. The exercise can range from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on what is
appropriate. Feel free to experiment. Generally, a good service program has reflection that is well-
organized, intentional, and continuous. It should happen before, during, and after the student’s service
experiences. The principles of good reflection practice comprise of multiple elements and models:
What? So What? Now What?: A well-used, successful model to assist you in designing reflection activities.
Focusing on all three questions- What happened? So what does it mean to you? Now what are you going to
do? -will provide broader insights and keep participants from getting stuck on just the facts or the feelings.
The 4 C’s of Reflection: Effective critical reflection is: Continuous, Connected, Challenging, Contextualized
• Continuous- an ongoing part of the service, before, during and afterwards
• Connected- relates to academic goals or personal experiences
• Challenging- encourages exploration of uncomfortable questions, unfamiliar feelings, or ideas
• Contextualized- implemented appropriate according to the topic, experience and content
Reflection Activity Goals: Though you will have specific goals in mind, a well-planned,
meaningful reflection will tend to
• Achieve the outcome in mind (i.e. leadership, team building, or improved critical thinking)
• Be appropriate for the group (age, culture, risk levels, supplies, time, etc.)
• Happen before, during, and as soon after the service experience as possible
• Be directly linked to the project or experience
• Dispel stereotypes, address negative experiences, increase appreciation for community needs,
increase commitment to service.
• Be varied for different learning styles, ages, etc. to maintain interests and energy level
• Actively involve the service recipients for a really compelling reflection session
• Be facilitated well for maximum participation, creativity, and learning
How to Facilitate a Reflection
Effective facilitation takes practice and is best learned by experience and observing other trained facilita-
tors. Here are a few that might help you:
• Tolerate silence, allowing self generation
• Use open-ended questions that facilitate others’ points of view
• Use body language to convey a sense of openness (i.e. posture, hands, eye contact, etc)
• Work at the edge of a person’s comfort level
• Use “I” statements to help people take responsibility for their feelings and thoughts
• Seek a balance between being flexible and staying on topic
• Set ground rules for discussion either by group or as a standard
• Use metaphors
• Encourage participants to do most of the talking
• Ensure all participants have an equal opportunity to become involved
• Link the structure experience to home
• Allow for experiences in a new pattern of behavior
• Facilitation is an art! See the section of this handbook on facilitation for other ideas
Sample Reflection Questions
Host engaging, creative reflections. Use your imagination! Guide the discussions with questions like:
• Why is it important to me to be involved in community service?
• How does this service experience relate to things I am learning in class?
• What do I expect to get out of this experience? What part was challenging?
• How might our efforts contribute or hinder social change?
• How did you make a difference today? How does that make you feel?
• If you were in charge of this project, what would you do differently?
More Resources! The importance of reflection cannot be underestimated. Pick up a
copy of the Cal Corps "Reflection Manual” and library, which has “The Essential Ele-
ments of Facilitation”, take a reflection training offered by Cal Corps or Gender and Eq-
uity Center, visit websites: http://www.compact.org/disciplines/reflection/