International service-learning makes for a holistic and meaningful educational experience. But how does reflection take the 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?
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 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 students to challenge themselves in a supportive setting – each day of service-learning assists students 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 are one of the main reasons why service-learning trips are able to elevate how students experience learning.
Further reading: The five Cs for structuring reflection activities
How service-learning ups the learning experience
Many studies have sought to understand how we learn and which approaches offer the best learning experiences. And a number of 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, but 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 students to engage more deeply with the learning material, and encourages them 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 students to:
- describe the experience objectively – by answering the questions who, what, where, when, and why
- examine the experience by comparing it to previously set learning goals – that include objectives related to personal growth, learning, and academic development
- articulate the learning experience by reconsidering it as they receive new information – allowing them to gain a new perspective of the experience.
The best service-learning programs factor in active-reflection practices (reflection that is planned and structured) into everyday activities. This builds on personal growth, and makes it more apparent how the curriculum fits into the real-world context. Active reflection can also improve student’s problem-solving abilities by teaching them to be dynamic and flexible in real-life situations.
How does service-learning include reflection?
Since reflection is the bridge that takes students from theoretical to practical learning, the best service-learning programs prioritise opportunities for reflection.
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 cultural immersion is different to cultural appropriation
While learning opportunities are abundant when travelling abroad, the best service-learning programs should include reflection sessions as an intentional and regular part of the program.
Reputable organisations make sure that their staff are well trained and their programs structured to prioritise reflection on an international service-learning trip. This allows students to take advantage of every opportunity for active reflection and sets the foundation for an impactful learning experience.
Who can benefit from a reflective service-learning experience?
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 on a service-learning experience. Get started on the educational journey of a lifetime by reflecting on your goals for the future and picking the international service-learning trip that will 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.