R.S.O. Reflection Manual for Immersion Experiences
Table of Contents
Importance of Reflection
- Reflection Logistics
- Where to reflect?
- When to Reflect?
Seven Principles for Successful Reflection Conversations
- Create a Pre-Trip Group Expectations Worksheet
- Conduct a Name Game
- Find Common Ground
- Use Sentence Stems
- Target the 5 Senses
- What? So What? Now What?
- Talk About Highs and Lows
- Show and Tell
- Connect and React Through Webbing
- Plan for the Future
Student & Advisor Voices on the Importance of Reflections
Reflection Conversations and Activities for…
- Cultural-Learning Immersion Experiences
- Service-Learning Immersion Experiences
- Environmental Immersion Experiences
- Spiritual Immersion Experiences
Reflections enable a group of students the chance to connect their experience to their own personal lives, views, and communities back home. Reflective practices allow us to think about the world around us and then make meaning from those experiences (Exploring Leadership, 109).
More so, reflection is the process of pausing, stepping back from the action, and asking:
- What is happening?
- Why is this happening?
- What does this mean?
- What does this mean for me?
- What can I learn from this?
- What’s next?
Importance of Reflection
Reflections help us discover meaning. As Juniata’s Registered Student Organizations embark on a variety of educational, cultural, environmental, and service-learning immersion experiences, it is imperative the trips incorporate reflections into their daily itinerary. Reflections guide us to becoming a learning community and lead us to a better understanding of other people, environments, and cultures. This, in turn, leads us to more informed actions.
Holding daily reflections during immersion experiences allows for students to:
- Think critically about their experience.
- Understand the complexity of the experience.
- Put their experiences into a larger context.
- Challenge attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, prejudices, privileges, and stereotypes.
- Transform a single action into a lifetime commitment.
- Explore individual roles within a community.
- Ask “Why?”
Where to Reflect?
Location and atmosphere is an important element of reflections. Since the facilitator will ask participants to share their thoughts, a safe, open, structured and civil environment is crucial. Pick a location that allows participants to sit in a circle facing each other and where everyone can be seen.
When to Reflect?
Before the project. Prior to departure, get participants together to discuss the immersion experience and outline shared goals and expectations. This will encourage students to engage in conversations surrounding social issues or activities related to the schedule and learn about the locations politics, history, beliefs, culture, and community.
Lisa Bear from Catholic Campus Ministry tells students, “I think reflection beforehand is as important as the reflection during and after a trip. Individuals need to have some expectations before going and it is really important to share those with the group.”
During the project. The group leader or facilitator should hold informal reflections or “check in” with participants to see how things are going throughout the day. A great time to reflect during a project would be over lunchtime or walking/traveling from one site to the next.
After the Project. The most effective reflection, or debriefing, should occur immediately following the experience. Why? Because ideas and immediate physical and emotional reactions have not yet been forgotten. The group should plan for a one hour formal reflection at the end of each day. Equally important, reflection should not end after the service experience is complete. Instead, reflection should continue to help students evaluate the meaning of the experience, grasp their emotional responses to the experience, think about the integration of knowledge and new information, and begin to explore further applications/extensions.
Seven Principles for Successful Reflection Conversations
1. Include reflections in the daily itinerary. Schedule enough time, so they do not get pushed back or overlooked.
2. A safe space, both physical and emotion, is crucial for people to share their thoughts and feelings.Hint: Do not have a reflection in a place where participants will get easily distracted or not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts like large, noisy, crowded areas.
3. Create a framework and a structure for the reflection. Have a theme in mind, along with opening and closing activities. Start the reflection by explaining the activity, why, and how it relates.Hint: Offer Questions! Some people like very general questions, like “How was this experience for you?” Others prefer more structured guiding questions such as “What were you expecting and what really happened?” or “What did you learn from this experience?”
4. Create a balance between an open, free-flowing atmosphere, and a structured conversation. Make sure to keep an eye on the time.
5. Make sure all participants have an equal opportunity to speak and share. The facilitator should not dominate the discussion.Hint: Use a talking stick. Only the person who has the stick can speak. If participants want, encourage them to write down their thoughts, so that they can share later and not interrupt the speaker.
Pass Out Gum or Lollipops. Putting something in the participant’s mouth makes them talk less. Gum and Lollipops work!
6. Each person’s input, feelings, and contributions should be valued and acknowledged equally. The facilitator should validate and use active listening to hear what each person says and encourage them to think more.Hint: During conversation, students may express feelings of guilt or shame. A facilitator SHOULD stay neutral and encourage students to feel those emotions, challenge, and ask “tell me more.” A Facilitator SHOULD NOT say: “Don’t feel that way” or become defensive.
7. Think about different learning styles. Learning styles can significantly impact the type of reflection activities in which participants engage.Hint: To accommodate different learning styles vary the media used in reflection. Think outside the box. Think art. Think journaling. Think speaking. Think movement. Think video.
Before diving into reflections, The Office of Student Activities recommends using the following exercises to build relationships; set goals and expectations; and, establish the importance of safety and respect.
Create a Pre-Trip Group Expectations Worksheet
- Both leaders and participants should write their answers privately and share their answers with the group.
- Questions might include:
- Why did you choose to participate in this immersion experience?
- What types of projects and activities do you think you will do?
- What are your fears about this immersion experience?
- What do you expect of the group leader?
- What do you expect of your peers?
- What do you hope to learn through participation in this immersion experience?
Conduct a Name Game
Playing a name game helps everyone learn names, get better acquainted, and begin to feel comfortable with the group. Name games create opportunities for group members to interact with people they would not naturally seek out. They help dissolve inhibitions and create a sense of emotional safety and fun.
Two Name Games that Work:
Names in Motion
Time: 10 – 30 minutes
The Game: Ask the group to introduce themselves using a fun motion as they say their name out loud. The group responds to each person by repeating the name with the same action to affirm the person and learn the name for themselves.
Time: 5 – 30 minutes
The Game: Ask the group to introduce themselves to the group by singing their name, using any spontaneous melody that comes to mind. Have the group sing back the name to the same tune to affirm the person and solidify the name for themselves.
Find Common Ground
Conduct opening activities that work as team building exercises, and help students discover their similarities.Example:
- Put students under a spot light. Have each participant write down one question he or she would like to ask anyone in the group. Questions should be G-rated and can cover a variety of topics, such as:
- What do you do for fun?
- What do you hope to gain from this experience?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Encourage creativity and thoughtfulness. Put all questions in a hat or in the center of the group. Have students take turns drawing a question and answering it.
Use Sentence Stems
Write sentence stems on paper and have participants write and/or share their thoughts with the group.Examples:
- Today I learned…
- What surprised me about today was…
- I never thought I would feel...
Target the 5 Senses
When asking students to reflect, it may help them to focus on the raw sensory experiences. Consider the following quote by Lao Tzu and think about how you can apply its message to your immersion experience.
“Endless drama in a group clouds consciousness. Too much noise overwhelms the senses. Continual input obscures genuine insight. Allow regular time for silent reflection. Turn inward and digest what has happened. Let the senses rest and grow still. Teach people to let go of their superficial mental chatter. Teach people to pay attention to the whole body’s reaction to a situation. When (participants) have time to reflect, they can see more clearly what is essential in themselves and others.”
~ Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism
Begin your reflection with these questions:
- What was the environment like?
- What did you see?
- What did you hear?
- What did you smell?
- What did the physical work feel like?
- Is this what you expected to see, hear, smell, touch, and do?
Bringing an immersion experience to an end can result in a whirl-wind of different emotional and physical responses. Therefore, closure is essential and is needed for three reasons:
- It helps students reflect on and connect their overall experience.
- It allows students the opportunity to identify what knowledge, opinions, or feelings have remained the same or changed.
- It helps students think of ways to make this immersion experience have a long-lasting impact on their own lives and home-communities.
Consider the following in planning how your group will bring closure to their immersion experience.
What? So What? Now What?
- Have everyone answer three questions
- What… did we do, see, hear, smell, touch, taste?
- So What… does it all mean, did you learn, did you enjoy the most?
- Now… where do we go from here? What can I do with this experience?
Talk About Highs and Lows
Have students sit in a circle and state a “high” and “low” of their immersion experience.
Show and Tell
When students return from an immersion experience, give them a few days off and then reconvene. Ask each student to bring ten photographs to share with the group.
Connect and React Through Webbing
Stand in a circle. Give someone a ball of string and ask them to compliment another member of the group, or ask them to reflect on a particular question. Once they have done this ask them to wrap one end of the string around their wrist and throw the ball to someone else. Continue the process until everyone has had a chance to speak.
Once everyone has spoken, you should have something that looks like a web. At this point, the leader should:
- Make points about the interconnectedness of people,
- How they were all part of the solutions,
- And how the outcome would be different if everyone had not participated.
Conclude the activity by having everyone cut off the piece of string around his/her wrist and tie it into a bracelet. This can serve as a memento to remember their time together.
Plan for the Future
Ask each participant to think about how they will continue this experience once they are home. There are a wide variety of options:
- Continue a relationship with someone you met,
- Write news articles,
- Speak at a campus or community event.
Make a list of possible things that you can all do. Ask each participant to pick two things, and make a commitment to follow through.