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Assessing Experiential Learning

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Assessing Experiential Learning", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Reflective Journal

What is Reflective Journal?

Reflective journal is a mean for students to record ideas, personal thoughts and experiences, as well as reflections and insights gained during and/or after their community service experience.


At the University of Detroit Mercy (Michigan, USA), as a service-learning component of a heat transfer course, mechanical engineering students visited homes to install plastic storm windows and door sweeps, in order to help save on heating fuel and electricity bills. Teachers assessed students’ service learning experience by asking them to complete reflective journals on their experience, in terms of their attitudes and perceptions before, during and after the service experience (Dukhan, Schumack, & Daniels, 2008). Students were expected to reflect on the following questions (taken from Dukhan, Schumack, & Daniels, 2008):

  • How did you feel about doing this assignment, before, during and after making your visit?
  • How did you feel about going into some strangers’ house, somebody who might be poor, who might be different from you?
  • How did you feel while you were there? How do you feel now?
  • Engineers are gifted at seeing details and making connections. Considering that most engineering problems relate to material objects, how much of a stretch is it for you to notice the human factors around you?
  • What did you notice about the people you saw on your site? How were they different from you? How were they similar to you? Can you imagine them as engineering students? Why or why not?
  • How does this project relate to you as an engineering student?

More information on Reflective Journal

Based on Welch’s ABCs of Reflection (Welch, 1999), reflection involves three elements - affect, behavior and cognition.

1.) Affect – identification of thoughts/feelings during the community service experience through an exploration of emotions.

Possible prompts for reflection (affect)

  • What does the community service learning experience tell you about yourself?
  • What were you thinking and feeling during the community service learning project?
  • What are the values and beliefs which you based your decision-making on during your community service learning experience?
  • How did my relationship with other people influence my community service learning experience?

2.) Behavior – a descriptive account of the events that occurred during the service experience, as well as an examination of past, present & future behavior

Possible prompts for reflection (behavior)

  • What did you do during the community service learning project?
  • Where did you participate in the community service learning project?
  • Who did you interact with during the community service learning project?

 3.) Cognition – discussion of how academic knowledge is applied to the community service project

Possible prompts for reflection (cognition)

  • How well does your community service learning experience fit in with the contemporary engineering practice?
  • What does your community service learning experience suggest about ways in which the engineering industry needs to develop to best meet the needs of the population?

(With reference to Whitfield et al., 2009)


  • Dukan, N., Schumack, M. R., & Daniels, J. J. (2008). Implementation of service-learning in engineering and its impact on students' attitude and identity. European Journal of Engineering Education, 33(1), 21-31.
  • Welch, M. (1999). The ABCs of reflection: A template for students and instructors to implement written reflection in service-learning. NSEE Quarterly, 25, 22-25.
  • Whitfield, M. F., Anderson, J. F., Lazenby, R., & Giannopoulos, N. (2009). Community service learning - Student package.   Retrieved 27 Aug, 2013, from http://csl.ubc.ca/files/2010/01/dpas420_09-10_student-package_sept9_cslo-final.pdf