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Running head: ADAPTABILITY

Tempris Daniels, Adam Patricoski, Allison Schipma, & Marlena Yang

Adaptability: Narrative Reflection

Loyola University Chicago


Adaptability: Narrative Reflection

The process of creating the adaptability modules began with an intentional focus on a
definition of adaptability. We found that this term held multiple meaning for different
individuals. Starting with a list of important elements we developed, we also sought to include
direct phrases provided by our Marquette partners. Through additional consultation with our
instructor, we identified key works by Mesirow (1978; 1997) and Kiely (2005) that addressed
components we believed were critical to an operational definition of adaptability. Specifically,
Mesirow (1978; 1997) highlights the change in perspective that may result from a disorienting
experience to ones frame of reference. Kiely (2005) applies these concepts to the servicelearning context, and emphasizes on the idea of developing a personal connection with the
experience of others. Taken together, these pieces allowed us to define adaptability.
All learning outcomes are grounded in Finks (2013) Taxonomy of Significant
Learning as a way to promote synergistic learning (p. 102). We felt that it was important
develop outcomes that work in harmony with one another to help students achieve integrated
learning. Further, following the directive of Nilson (2010), these outcomes served as guideposts
to all activities in the modules. Following is an explanation of focus of each module.
Pre-Service Module
Pre-service reflection is essentially the initial step before the DEAL model of critical
reflection, which will be discussed in the following sections. Ash, Clayton, and Moses (2009)
suggests that reflection should not take place after the service-learning experience because you
will have lost the opportunity to help [students] learn while they still have time to act on that
learning and then possibly reflect on the success of that action (p. iii). Therefore, the pre, mid,


and post service reflection assignments are intended to offer students a well-rounded reflective
experience to enhance learning.
In relation to adaptability, the pre-service reflection module encourages students to
process their initial thoughts and feelings as well as begin thinking about what adaptability looks
like prior to the start of their service-learning experience. For instance, students are asked to
think about a time when they entered a new experience outside of their comfort zone, their
reactions regarding that experience, and coping strategies utilized to adapt to the environment.
This is meant to prompt students to consider adaptability as an important factor when immersed
in a new environment.
Additionally, Nilson (2010) provides insight for teaching the millennial generation by
stating, with so much activity in [students] lives as well as frequent interaction with friends and
family, they have little time or inclination for reflection, self-examination, or free-spirited living
(p. 11). Infusing pre-service reflection in the learning process fosters learning opportunities for
this generation as described by Nilson.
Mid-Service Module
The mid-service reflection module focuses on the reflection and reciprocity elements of
service learning that scholar Barbara Jacoby (1996) centers her research on in Service-learning
in higher education: Concepts and practices. Jacoby (1996) suggests, service-learning must
incorporate components of reflection and reciprocity, which distinguishes it from other
community service or volunteer programs. (p. 6).
Mid-service reflection challenges students to incorporate their own frames of reference
with the work that they are doing at the site. The intent behind structuring the module this way is
to help students understand how their work connects with those who they are serving. By


reflecting on this aspect of their service-learning, students are able to recognize how they are
personally learning from their service, and how individuals at the service site are learning from
This two-way learning grounded not only how we formed the module but also the
language that we use throughout the prompts. Throughout the module, we refer to servicelearning specifically using a hyphen. This language choice stems again from Jacoby (1996)
where she acknowledges that the hyphen is critical; it symbolizes the symbiotic relationship
between service and learning. This research is utilized not only in the mid-service reflection
module, but also woven throughout the entire module design.
Post-Service Module
Lastly, the post-service reflection module builds upon the pre-service and mid-service
reflections, providing students with the chance to reflect upon the ways their adaptability skills
have transformed through their experience. Kiely (2005) suggests, Educators that do explore
learning processes in service-learning tend to focus primarily on reflection as a useful predictor
of students academic and personal outcomes (p. 5). The post-service reflection module
encourages students to provide examples that connect to their own self-efficacy as well as their
personal and professional goals.
It is with intentionality, that we provide overarching questions for students to answer
through the assignments. For instance, students are asked to describe how their personal
adaptability affects the community and society at large. This question allows students to further
contemplate what adaptability looks like for them and the barriers associated with adapting to
unfamiliar situations. The post-service reflection is meant to allow students to think about what


they can take away from their service-learning experience and how they will be use their
adaptability skills in future environments.
Furthermore, Fink (2013) provides multiple components that make ones learning
significant. Among the list includes connecting academic work with other areas of life. When
professors create service learning opportunities, student are encouraged to find and create
connections between what they are learning in class and the activities of the larger community in
which they live (Fink, 2013, p. 50). This statement effectively articulates where the post-service
reflection focuses--the students learning journey. Asking students to document their learning
provides the chance to showcase how they are able to use their adaptability skills inside and
outside of the classroom. Through reflection, students can build their own connections, and
chronicle their journey through self-authorship, ultimately learning about their own abilities.
Beginning with a well-developed definition of adaptability, we were able to articulate
cohesive learning outcomes to guide the creation of three learning modules. Pre-service
emphasizes the importance of reflection and adaptability in a new environment. Mid-service
adds the element of reciprocity and the recognition of ones frame of reference in this reciprocal
service relationship. Finally, Post-service encourages students to recognize adaptability in their
experience, and continue to practice that skill in future settings. Through reflection on their
service-learning and adaptability, students will develop the self-efficacy needed for continued



Ash, S.L., Clayton, P.H. & Moses, M.G. (2009). Learning through critical reflection: A tutorial
for service-learning students (Instructors version). Raleigh, NC: PHC Ventures.
Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Jacoby, B. & Associates. (1996). Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and Practices.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kiely, R. (2005). A transformative learning model for service-learning: A longitudinal
study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 12(1), 5-22.
Mezirow, J. (1978). Perspective transformation. Adult Education, 28, 100-110.
Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult
and Continuing Education, 74, 5-12.
Nilson, L.B. (2010). Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.