When should reflection occur in a Service-Learning course?
Since reflection is integral to students making connections between their service experience and academic study, the university core says, “The reflection activities are required pre-service, throughout the service, and post-service.”
In service-learning, initial assessment is critical. Students must know their beginning level of knowledge before they can gage what they have learned by the end. Help may also be required to introduce students to the community or people with whom they will work. Students must "unpack" their beliefs, assumptions, and anticipations about what they will be doing. Pre-service reflection helps students see how their initial beliefs may have changed or been strengthened by the end of the experience.
Reflection should take place as soon after the service experience as possible. Students should be urged not to let too much time pass before completing reflection assignments. They must be able to remember fresh impressions while they reflect. Students should be coached through reflection, so that deeper understanding can be gained. Students' progress should also be tracked so that instructors can respond quickly if students or experiences get off course.
At the close of a course, students can synthesize their service-learning in total. Students must be able to give useful, intelligent information about the service provided upon course conclusion. Instructors should discuss the implications of the service, asking how students' service-learning experiences will influence their future actions.