Using Reflection Activities to Deepen Student Engagement

This page authored by Holly Hughes, Edmonds Community College, based on assignments developed with Dr. Hans Landel in a team-taught learning community course, "Exploring Natural History in Word and Field."
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This page first made public: Oct 9, 2012


We developed this series of Reflection Activities in our learning community class "Exploring Natural History in Word and Field." Specifically, we require our students to participate in a service learning project with a non-profit organization engaged in environmental restoration. We've found that students are more likely to experience deeper engagement when we build reflection activities into the quarter-long experience. These are articulated in this two-part assignment.

Learning Goals

  • Identify and describe the functions of the environmental non-profit you have selected (group interaction).
  • Work collaboratively with a small group of students towards a common goal (group interaction).
  • Make connections between course material and the work of environmental organizations (critical thinking)
  • Conduct primary and secondary research on an environmental organization and an issue that is important to it (oral and written communication, critical thinking).
  • Present your findings as a team in an Oral Presentation (oral communication).
  • Gain experience as a volunteer and realize benefits from it (critical thinking, group interaction).
  • Reflect on service-learning experiences by writing an essay on your experience and your group's collaborative experience in working together (critical thinking; oral and written communication).

Note: These incorporate our college's College-Wide Abilities, which are listed in parenthesis at the end).

Context for Use

This activity is appropriate for first or second year students in college. The Service Learning project is designed as a quarter-long project and therefore needs to be introduced the first or second week of the quarter. The Reflection activities should be completed BEFORE starting and AFTER completion of the project. We do cover primary research methods in class before asking students to conduct research, and set up interviews with their community partners, the non-profit organizations devoted to environmental restoration. We also present information on putting together effective oral presentations. By the time the students complete the service project, they have learned the difference between native and non-native species and therefore, can provide more help and assistance in educating other volunteers. This assignment could easily be adapted to use for other service learning projects.

Description and Teaching Materials

Introduction/Context–provides background on the class and the assignment
SL Projectinstructions –provides instructions for the quarter-long Service Learning Project working with a non-profit organization engaged in environmental restoration
SL Reflection–provides the instructions for the two reflection activities, including specific questions for the students

Introduction/Context for Reflection Activities (Microsoft Word 37kB Feb29 12)
SL Projectinstructions (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 27kB Jan2 12)
SL Reflection (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 122kB Jan2 12)
Sample Student Reflections (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 142kB Jan2 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The focus of this activity is specifically on using pre-and-post reflection activities to more fully engage students in the service learning project. We rely on our college's Center for Service Learning for assistance in setting up the community partners our students work with and don't advise that faculty undertake these projects without some support from your institution.


Students participate in a variety of assessment models:
They receive points for meeting the weekly deadlines
They receive points for their pre- and post Reflection activities
They receive a grade from the instructors on their final Group Presentation
They fill out a Peer and Self Assessment to assess their own contributions to the group, as well as their peers.