Reflection as a Professional Activity during Service Learning

The Problem

Undergraduate students who first encounter work experience of any type in their final year may experience some of the same concerns and challenges as students who experience placements earlier in their degree. However, these students also come with different priorities for their learning and with a richer theoretical understanding. By constructing a portfolio with reflections, students can keep track of issues, responses and reformulations as they occur throughout their placement. Such tracking allows thematic issues and questions that range over the content of the unit to be addressed comprehensively and reinforces the development of the student’s professional identity.

The Context

Reflection is a critical component of many professional practices. In psychology for example, evidence of reflection through peer consultations is required to maintain professional registration in Australia. The importance of reflection is often overlooked by undergraduate students and many are unaware of how important the skill will be to maintaining their registration, and furthering their own professional growth. This pattern, used with students in a service learning inspired placement, aims to reinforce the importance of reflection skills through use of the 4Rs model. The pattern also incorporates practices adopted by the profession as part of continuing professional development, such as modelling and peer consultation. This pattern also illustrates the role of reflection in informal adult learning, an important understanding for students about to leave the formal learning environment of a university.

The Pattern

  1. Discuss the experiential learning cycle as a framework for adult learning and as a theory guiding student development during placement.
  2. Introduce students to the 4Rs model as a guide for developing reflections
  3. Based on a workshop class, students draft a reflection using the 4Rs and engage another student in a peer consultation. Peer consultation guidelines from the registration board are used to guide the discussions.
  4. After commencing placement, students watch a live role-play in class that is based on an experience reported by a student in a previous cohort. In pairs and then as a class, a reflection is drafted using the 4Rs
  5. The reflection is later placed on the unit wiki for further redrafting and discussion
  6. In the same workshop, students bring a draft reflection to class and engage in peer consultation sessions in pairs or small groups.
  7. As a class, students are responsible for generating a list of professional schemata to guide their reflections (see Resource 1).
  8. At completion of placement, students submit their reflection portfolio and present a short summary of their placement to an audience of fellow students, academic staff and representatives from host organisations at a placement conference.

Related Patterns

Reflective Blogs during Internship (RBI)



1. Potential Professional Schemata for Interpreting Practice
2. Placement reflection criteria


Sweitzer, H.F., & M.A. King (2008). The successful internship: Professional and civic development (3rd Ed). Belmont: Brooks/Cole.


This pattern was initiated by Erin O’Connor (Psychology and Counselling, Health)