The best reflection questions reinforce learning during service.  Analyzing hundreds of reflection questions from successful programs across the country, we cover the essential elements of timing, theme and clear expectations.  

 

Timing is without a doubt the top essential element.  Misericordia University provides a comprehensive list of questions to ask before, during and after service.  This blog focuses on the importance of timing reflection questions after service because key details are often lost if volunteers are logging into a website when they get home or completing forms days later.  It is vital reflection prompts are delivered quickly.  Student friendly programs make it so intuitive to log hours in real time that 4 out of 5 students will log service the same day they serve

 

From there, the science goes to clear expectations.  First, encourage deeper reflections with quantitate instructions like, "In 5 to 7 sentences..."  Then, consider asking students to include a photo with their reflection. A photo is a powerful visual which can help students reflect on their service down the road.  After-all, students could be expected to write over 1,000 words or include a picture!  

 

Great reflection questions share many essential elements thematically.  The foundation is built by asking the volunteer to describe the service provided.  This foundation creates a record of the service which is useful for internal reflection but also verification, approval and future reference. From there, the science of reflection questions comes down to digging deeper on the intended socio-emotional development you intend to instill.  

 

Many programs have the foundational question of, "How did your service make you feel?" This is great but consider how adding, "What challenged you?" or, "Evaluate your performance." encourages students to reflect more deeply on associating feelings with specific obstacles they overcame.  

 

Asking where a student served is another standard.  Consider asking, "What did you learn about the organization?" which asks the student to reflect on specific observations on the larger movement they supported.

 

Similarly, asking what the student learned is very common. Adding, "Who did you meet?" encourages external reflections on the entire community the volunteer truly supported.  Common responses may include those who benefitted from the service, other volunteers and/or the nonprofit benefitting from their time. 

 

Because skill development is a top socio-emotional topic, many programs ask the foundational question, "What skills did you develop?"  Adding, "What responsibilities did you have" helps volunteers connect tangible responsibilities and skills they are building for the future. 

 

Religious organizations commonly ask, "How did you serve in faith?"  Asking how service relates to specific passages or teachings can help instill specific values while reinforcing teachings.  

 

We would love to hear from you with specific questions you find produce especially strong reflections.  Please comment in the box below to share your insights with others in the service learning community! 

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