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Service and Sustainability Learning Reflection


Francisco Acoba

Department of Service and Sustainability Learning Program

Kapi'olani Community College


Acoba, F. (2016). Service and sustainability learning reflection. Kapi'olani Community College.


Reflecting on their semester-long service-learning experience, students:
  • Describe the relationship between the concepts/theories they learned in class and the service they did in the community;
  • Discuss the issue that their service addressed, including possible solutions; and
  • Explain how the experience affected their personal (civic), academic, career goals/plans.

The reflection addresses the following DQP proficiences at the Associate level:

Applied and Collaborative Learning

  • Describes in writing at least one case in which knowledge and skills acquired in academic settings may be applied to a field-based challenge, and evaluated the learning gained from the application.
  • Analyzes at least one significant concept or method in the field of study in light of learning outside the classroom.

Civic and Global Learning

  • Provides evidence of participation in a community project through either a spoken or written narrative that identifies the civic issues encountered and personal insights gained from this experience.

Background and Context

The reflection is a requirement for the service-learning program. Service-learning, which is not a college requirement, is offered in courses ranging from anthropology to zoology, but service-learning students mostly come from language, natural science and social science classes. Most students are either developmental or first year, and they major in liberal arts and sciences fields, such as natural sciences, and various CTE fields, such as occupational therapy.

Reflection prompt B (Academic and Applied Learning) and D (Change / Commitment) specifically address the Applied and Collaborative Learning proficiency. Prompt A (Statement of the Issue / Activities) and C (Moral and Civic Engagement) specifically address the Civic and Global Learning proficiency. Prompt B also addresses course SLOs. After each semester, faculty and staff from the service-learning program assess 60 reflections (of about 300 submitted) based on the attached rubric. In the summer, they discuss and implement programmatic changes, including revision of the reflection, and suggest to instructors course changes. These changes intend to foster richer service-learning experiences for students, who then may write better reflections.

Alignment and Scaffolding

Students complete the reflection at the end of the term. At the start of the term, the service-learning program orients students, including introducing the reflection. During the term, the program also offers students the following: talk story sessions in which specific community issues are discussed, mid-term reflection workshops that address the prompts, and a journal with specific reflection activities. (Based on feedback from the March 2015 charrette, the program is exploring an electronic portfolio that would encourage the students to reflect on their experience throughout the term.)

Our program encourages community partners to discuss with the service-learning students the specific issues that the organization addresses. We encourage instructors to do reflection activities, linking the community service and course concepts/theories.


Based on the attached rubric, our students generally score close to the targeted level (2) on the first three prompts (Statement of the Issue/ Activities, Academic/Applied Learning, and Moral and Civic Engagement) and lower on the last prompt (Change/Commitment). (Perhaps it’s too much to ask that all students have the kind of personal transformation we hope for in service-learning.)

We continue to refine the reflection, which is in its fourth iteration. (The Teagle Foundation has supported work on the last two versions through a multi-campus grant.) The next iteration will have similar prompts, perhaps more generally or simply articulated. It will also allow for different artifacts, those that better match our students’ disciplines, course levels, and backgrounds. About 2/3 of our students are taking a science or language (Chinese, Japanese or Korean) class in which substantial writing or writing in English is not a major component. These classes do not require first-year composition as a pre-requisite. Further, about a third of our students are international, and up to half speak English as a second language. It seems too much to ask the majority of our students to produce a high-quality (English-language) essay that their current class or prior classes/experiences have not necessarily prepared them to write. Some possible future artifacts include: a lower-stakes or a developmental writing assignment, such as one an electronic portfolio could accommodate; a poster presentation, slide deck or Prezi with transcript; and an audio/visual piece, such as a podcast or video.

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