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Alice Hawkes
Why reflection matters in a service-learning experience

International service-learning makes for a holistic and meaningful educational experience. But how does reflection take your learning experience from okay to epic on a service-learning trip abroad?

There are a few key features to the best international service-learning trips. They include well-structured activities, opportunities to interact with team members and local people in a meaningful way, and ample opportunity for reflection. 

Further reading: What is international service-learning?

Why is service-learning a good way to learn?

Volunteering in service-learning is a great way to make the most out of the volunteer experience and maximise your educational outcome.


International service-learning trips offer an obvious benefit – the opportunity to learn about another country and its culture. But from an educational point of view, they’re also based in science, and are focused on offering you the best learning opportunities out there. 

From offering the chance to learn in a new environment, to making it possible for you to challenge yourself in a supportive setting, service-learning assists you in understanding theoretical knowledge in a practical way. And reflection plays a major role in this type of learning experience. 

Activities that include reflection are a major fibre in the thread that holds the entire service-learning experience together. And, these activities are one of the main reasons why service-learning trips are able to elevate how you experience learning. 

How service-learning ups the learning experience

Volunteers reflect on the learning process.


Many studies have sought to understand how we learn and which approaches offer the best learning experiences. And a number of educational models have given us a good idea.

The Describe, Examine and Articulate Learning (DEAL) model is one of them. Not only does it give us insight into the learning process, it also gives us examples of ways to deepen and improve the learning experience. And it begins with reflection. 

The DEAL model highlights the fact that reflection gets us to engage more deeply with the learning material, and encourages us to think critically and become more self-aware. 

Further reading: Defining critical reflection

The DEAL model is a three-step process for structuring reflection assignments that can improve learning outcomes. It involves asking you to:

  • describe your experience objectively – by answering the questions who, what, where, when, and why?
  • examine your experience by comparing it to previously set learning goals – that include objectives related to personal growth, learning, and academic development
  • articulate your learning experience by reconsidering it as you receive new information – allowing you to gain a new perspective of your experience.

How does service-learning include reflection?

Service learning involves a lot of reflective sessions.


Since reflection is the bridge that takes students from theoretical to practical learning, the best service-learning programs prioritise opportunities for reflection. 

Time for reflection should be planned and structured into everyday activities. This builds on personal growth, and helps you understand how the curriculum fits into real-world contexts. Active reflection can also improve your problem-solving abilities by teaching you to be dynamic and flexible in real-life situations.

Merging service-learning with cultural immersion – being surrounded by and participating in the culture of another community – is a valuable way for students to experience and reflect on real-life experiences. Service-learning programs that have a keen eye on cultural immersion add to the learning experience in a meaningful way.

Further reading: How is cultural immersion different to cultural appropriation

Who can benefit from a reflective service-learning experience?

Volunteers of all ages can benefit from a service learning program.


Since service-learning is an educational experience that prioritises reflection, service-learning programs are the perfect opportunity to deepen your learning experience and make sense of the world you live in. And this applies to anyone with a thirst for knowledge.

There’s no limit to what you can learn while participating in a service-learning experience. Get started on an educational journey of a lifetime by reflecting on your goals for the future and picking the international service-learning trip that’ll make them easier to achieve. 

Take a look at our international, award-winning service-learning programs and pick a reflective educational experience that can take your learning to new heights.

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