Reflecting on Learning & Experience


This resource guides you through Module 4 - Youth Leadership Practice: Unit 3 - Reflecting on Learning and Experience


On completion PSYV's will:

Unit 3

  • Be introduced to reflective essays and the assessment criteria

  • Write a reflective essay on learning and experience gained in PSYV

  • Submit completed portfolio


Group room or classroom and self-study at home


The notional time allocated to this whole module is 150 hours. This covers units 1, 2 & 3 and includes time to study for and write the essay and prepare the portfolio for submission.

Activity 1 & 2: An introduction to reflective essays

This unit requires YV's to engage in learning about reflective essays and then using the reflective essay criteria guide to and essay outline to write the essay.

The PSYV learning platform links to a guide on reflective essays based on Alice in Wonderland, which YV's should read [Note: YV's do not need to sign up to this resource].

There is also a reference made to Moon's guidance on reflective writing:

Descriptive writing

No self-questioning. Emotions not explored. No standing back from the event. No external information considered

Descriptive account with some reflection

Some questions raised but not answered. Emotions begun to be questioned. Some distance from the event. Some reference to external information

Reflective writing 1

Evidence of self-questioning. Emotions placed in context and questioned. Evidence of standing back and questioning the event. Reference made to theory or literature

Deeper Reflective writing 2

Critical analysis of self and own behaviour. Recognition of the role of emotions in shaping events. Examination & appraisal of a range of perspectives. Integration of literature properly referenced

Here's what we're looking for in this essay:

Title: Give your essay a title that introduces your focus E.g. 'Learning to Lead' or 'From Starting with No Experience' 'Becoming an Experienced Volunteer' - something which summarises what we might expect to read about in the essay.

  1. Introduction

Start by telling us about you when you first joined PSYV. For example you might have had no experience of youth groups and volunteering or you might already have a few things 'under your belt'. You might be part of an established group or one that is brand new and just getting off the ground. All of this is important. Then give a brief introduction to your essay, what you are focusing on and where it ends.

2. Body

Start by referring back to your first STAR plan. What did you say you were hoping to achieve from the PSYV learning journey.

Describe the different phases of your learning and how you went about it.

Discussion. This is where you dig a bit deeper into what this means to you, such as:

  • What knowledge, skills and experience did you gain?

  • What lessons were learned about you; about PSYV; about volunteering and about leadership.

  • What helped and what hindered you?

3. Conclusion

Summarise the main points you've covered previously and bring your essay to a close by giving an insight into what you discovered about yourself that you didn't already know. Explain what impact this has had on you and how you will take it with you into the future. Give feedback to PSYV managers on what to build in on to continue to make PSYV a positive experience for years to come.

Activity 3: Final Portfolio

All the evidence on learning confirms that the more we reflect on the situation, what we've done, why we did it and what we will change or improve in future; the stronger our connection is with what we've learned, our learning goes deeper and we are more likely to actually get better as we go. If we miss out on these chances to reflect we can easily get stuck in traps of making the same mistakes over and over again and shut our minds off to new ideas and potential.

In the final portfolio, we definitely don't need to see everything again. However we do ask YV's to dip in, pull things out and comment on them to communicate to us what they think now about what they've learned.

We recommend doing this before completing the reflective essay as it will give a good re-cap of how far they've traveled to reach this point.

Tip: Think of it as looking through old holiday photos, grabbing the ones that mean something to you and making a photo collage that tells everyone the story of where you've been, what you did, how it felt and what it means to you now and in the future.

YV's have a choice abut how to present the portfolio evidence. Some people stick to a folder and create sections for each module. Some people create a booklet and some people like to get crafty and put together a scrap book (either on paper or digital). This will be a memento and could be useful for applying to college, university and employment. It could really make YV's stand out from the crowd. Whatever they choose, it should say something about the individual.


Unit 3: Activity 1: Introducing Reflective Essays: Here YV’s are required to read some background information on reflective essays and the criteria used in PSYV. Mentors will receive an essay proposal with headings and a bullet point summary of what YV’s expect to cover. Mentors will give feedback accordingly .

Unit 3 Activity 2: Reflective Essay: For the essay submission YV’s are required to reflect on their whole learning journey and identify their key points of learning, discuss the benefits of the volunteering experiences, identify the challenges of leadership and how they are overcome and identify ways the learning will be applied by them in other aspects of their life.

Unit 3 Activity 3: Final Portfolio: For the portfolio YV's are required to complete a tracker evidence sheet highlighting ways that this evidences key learning points and what they mean both now and in the future.

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