By Emily Breen
In the world of service-learning, reflection is incredibly important. And I don’t mean the reflection one sees in a mirror or in a body of water – the concept I taught my preschoolers at Jumpstart last week. That reflection is important too, but not what this post is about. My Jumpstart team does “pluses and deltas” after each of our lessons, reflecting on what went well and what we could do better. I think this process is vital to make service-learning effective from all sides.
First, reflection as a service-learning student really drives home the importance of the hyphen. It allows students to make a concrete connection between the material they are learning in class and the service they are doing outside of the class. Reflection as an S-L student can be in the form of talking with your TA, reflecting on your own about what is going well or what needs to improve, talking with your community partner, or whatever suits you best. It is so important to evaluate the work you have done and recognize how it has effected those you served and how it has shaped you. So often you will find that service-learning enhanced your academic, personal, and professional experiences. Even more than that, reflecting on your work will allow you to see the positive impact you’ve made on people’s lives.
Reflection is also important for our exceptional S-LTAs who work incredibly hard for an entire semester helping S-L students have the best service-learning experience as possible. Hannah Flath, S-LTA and current S-L co-op student talked about her experiences with reflection in the Service-Learning Program saying, “I personally believe that the Service-Learning Program uses reflection in a [very] intentional way. These activities, whether written or discussed, have helped me over the past year and a half as an S-LTA to solve problems, gain professional skills, and work through both professional and personal problems.” She also spoke about how weekly reflection activities in small group meetings of Service-Learning student leaders has allowed her to form camaraderie with her peers. It provides a time for her and all the S-LTAs, S-LTMs and Street Team members to offer advice from our own experiences while also gaining valuable insight from others.
Finally, as a new S-L Street Team member this spring, I saw a new side to reflection. As a team, we take a lot of time to look at the Service-Learning Program overall and find ways that we can help support and improve it. Through this process, we have helped service-learning students navigate the S-L experience, contributed to the S-LOG with articles about many aspects of service, we have created an article thanking our community partners, and we have worked to discover ways to implement the S-L program into even more areas of the academic experience at Northeastern. We have worked to make a positive impact on the already thriving ServiceLearning Program. We could not have done that without reflecting on past years, what’s going well or not, and where we could have the largest influence.
No matter what position you hold in the world of service-learning, reflection is one of the most important pieces of that experience. Without it, the Service-Learning Program at Northeastern would not be where it is today. Nor would service-learning students. Reflection allows all of us to grasp the importance of that hyphen, the work we have done, and the impact we can continue to make.
images from Google images.