The most common reflection assignments require students to respond to prepared questions designed to meet the course/experience learning goals. For instance, if the learning goal involves the application of previously learned disciplinary content, students can be directed to identify, critique, and evaluate the importance of what they had previously learned in the classroom to their EL activity. If the course goal hinges on the development and broadening of student perspectives, students could be asked to describe their personal growth as a result of their experience. To personalize and target the reflection to a student’s particular experience, the student could create their own directed questions to answer. The key to directed writing is that the student have the opportunity to critically address the course material in light of their experience (Gallagher,

Directed writing assignments provide the professor with more control and clear assessment opportunities. Writing can be assigned to target specific stages of the EL activity to emphasize the student’s development. These prior assignments, when returned to, provide students with vivid evidence of their evolving perspectives and personal learning.

Applicability: Most experiences can be reflected upon with some sort of writing assignment, but it is particularly well-suited to reveal curricular applications. Students may need the structure and space provided by writing assignments to clarify the connection between their EL activities and course content. Directed writing assignments also work well when the EL activity is part of a traditional classroom experience.

Sample Assignments:

Katie Halcrow, Inver Hills Community College, asks her students to:

  • Think about the first day of your experience: what was your biggest challenge?
  • What was your biggest challenge mid-way through the semester?
  • Now, at the end of your experience, what is your biggest challenge?

The DEAL model (Schenck and Cruickshank) provides one framework for a series of connected writing assignments.

  • Describe: What did I do? What did others do?
  • Examine: What curricular learning is relevant to this experience? What academic skills did I use or lack?
  • Articulate Learning: Finish the following phrases --
    • “I learned that” …
    • “I learned this when” …
    • “This learning matters because” …
    • “In light of this learning” …

Sample Assessment: Professors typically have significant experience grading student writing and these assignments can be no different. Reflection rubrics, however, can provide professors and students with a useful framework when evaluating personal and experiential, rather than technical, writing. Terry Beck, School of Education, University of Puget Sound, adapts the following rubric for reflection assignments in his courses. The specific assignment assessed here asks students to write a reflective paper which compares two course readings. Students have this rubric as part of the assignment.


Gallagher, Lissa, Faculty Guide to Service-Learning. (University of Colorado – Denver).

Halcrow, Katie. (2014). Reflection Activities: Service-learning’s not-so-secret weapon”. Civic Leadership Initiative.

Schenck, J. and J. Cruickshank. (2015) Evolving Kolb: Experiential Education in the Age of Neuroscience. Journal of Experiential Education. 38(1) 73–95.