Skip to main content

CB Course Designation

5. Critical Reflection

Activities and assignments in the class provide a method or means for students to critically reflect on what they are learning through their community experience. These activities can take multiple forms, including group discussions, online reflective questions, journals, and participatory activities.

experiential learning cycle

Model taken from the Corporation for National and Community Service, rooted in Eyler, Giles, Dewey, and Kolb.


Reflection Guide

Follow the link to this helpful guide with resources on: 

  • Reflection activities
  • Reflective writing prompts
  • Facilitating reflection

The Reflection Guide

The Four C's of Reflection

There are four principles to effective critical reflection. It must be Continuous, Connected, Challenging, and Contextualized.
  1. Continuous reflection ensures that reflection, as well as community involvement, are ongoing components in the learners education. Often short-term experiences can lead to more complex long-term involvement which gives the student extensive material for observation, reflection, and experimentation. Continuous Reflection also means that reflection should be utilized before, during, and after an experience.
  2. Connected reflection helps students link the "service" they are doing with community organizations to the structured "learning" they are working through in the classroom. Without structured reflection, "students may fail to bridge the gap between the concrete service experience and the abstract issues discussed in class;students may become frustrated and wonder why they are involved in the community as part of their course work."
  3. Challenging reflection poses new, sometimes uncomfortable questions and ideas to the learner to encourage growth. During this type of reflection it is especially important for students to feel they are in a safe and mutually respectful atmosphere where they can freely express their opinions, ideas and thoughts.
  4. Contextualized reflection ensures that the reflection activities or topics are appropriate and meaningful in relation to the experiences of the students. For example, should the reflection be more formal or informal? Or should it occur in proximity to the community the students will be working with?
Taken from Eyler, Janet & Giles, Dwight (1996) A Practitioners Guide to Reflection in Service Learning Nashville: Vanderbilt University.


Readings to Prompt Critical Reflection

Eby, J. (1998). Why Service Learning is Bad.

Davis, A. (2006). What we Don't Talk About When We Don't Talk About Service. The Civicaly Engaged Reader.

Strom, S. (2010). Does Service learning Really Help? The New York Times.

Tatum, B. The Complexity of Identity: "Who Am I?"


Academic credit

Review how academic credit can be linked to reflection assignments.

More on Academic Credit


Critical reflection can be done independently or in small groups. It can include writing assignments, discussions, and artistic expressions. Review how co-education can be instrumental in critical reflection.

More on Co-Education

CBL Related Events and Opportunities

Interested in Community-Based Learning? Follow the link below for information on AU's Annual Community-Based Learning events. 


CBL Events

The CB Course Designation

Return to the CB Course Designation homepage to review other CB criteria.