Reflection is one of the essential elements in Service-Learning (SL). Through the reflective process, you can review your SL experiences and your sentiments and link your community engagement with your understanding of course learning outcomes. We present here two possible strategies for a written reflection journal.

Download Electronic Reflection Journal Template

I-Reflective Cycle (Adapted from Gibbs 1988)

Reflective cycle graphic

II-Critical Incident Reflection Model

According to David Cooper (1998), a critical incident journal asks you to examine specific incidents in your service-learning outreach where you gain insight into course issues or where your perspective is changed. As described by Cooper, the critical journal format requires you to “pursue the three rhetorical steps of description, analysis, and reflection.” The following steps should be addressed in each journal entry:

Step 1. Describe your role in the incident. What did you do? How did you react? How did others react?

Step 2. Analyze the incident. How well or how poorly did you understand the situation? Was your reaction-or the reaction of others-well informed or based on misinformation? How did you handle it? What would you do differently next time?

Step 3. What impact did the incident have on you? Why do you view it as critical? How has the incident influenced your feelings about working at your placement site? What have you learned? How has your perspective on yourself or others been changed and/or reinforced? Where do you go from here?”

To these three steps we add:
Step 4. Analyze the incident in relation to class texts. How did the texts prepare you for the incident? How can the incident be better understood through the teachings and texts of your professor? What about your class work-will be of use next time you run into this incident?

Cooper, David. 1998. “Reading, Writing, and Reflection.” In Academic Service Learning: A Pedagogy of Action and Reflection. Eds. Robert A. Rhoads and Jeffrey P.F. Howard,  pp. 47-56. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Gibbs, G. 1988. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford: Further Educational Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.
Kolb, David A. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as The Source of Learning and Development.