December 18, 2002

hit on an article on journals, noting:

    Articulating connections between new and existing knowledge improves learning.
    Writing about learning is a way of demonstrating what has been learned.
    Journal writing accentuates favorable learning conditions—it demands time and space for reflection, encourages independent thought and ownership, enables expression of feelings, and provides a place to work with ill-structured problems.
    Reflection encourages deep rather than surface learning.

Journals are considered an effective way to socialize learners to academic discourse and institutional culture (Garland 1999; Myers 2001) and enhance the learning of English as a second language (Carroll 1994; Myers 2001).

At the heart of learning through journal writing is reflection, the process of exploring events or issues and accompanying thoughts and emotions. Moon (1999) outlines a “map” of the reflective writing process. She calls it a map to convey that the process is flexible rather than a linear sequence of activities. The map depicts—

  • A purpose for journal writing that guides selection of topics
  • Description of events or issues (observations; comments on personal behavior, feelings, and context)
  • Linkage to related material (further observations, relevant knowledge or experience, suggestions from others, theory, new information)
  • Reflective thinking (relating, experimenting, exploring, reinterpreting from other points of view, theorizing)
  • Other processes (testing new ideas, representing material in other forms such as through graphics or dialogue)
  • Product (statement of something that has been learned or solved, identification of new issue or question)
  • Further reflection leading to resolution or looping back to an earlier step

the article talks about assessing journals. argh.

Given the importance of reflection as an outcome and the concerns about assessment, how might educators use journals with adult learners? English (2001) offers the following guiding principles: (1) respect—making confidentiality and boundary setting essential; (2) justice—providing equitable feedback; (3) beneficence—guarding privacy, focusing on learning rather than therapy; (4) self-awareness—practicing the reflection you preach; and (5) caring—providing clear expectations and guidelines. One set of guidelines gives learners examples of the types of reflective entries they might write (“Encouraging” 2001; Mitchell and Coltrinari 2001):

  • Descriptive—What happened?
  • Metacognitive—What were your thoughts, feelings, assumptions, beliefs, values, attitudes?
  • Analytic—What were the reasoning and thinking behind actions and practices?
  • Evaluative—What was good or bad? What are the implications?
  • Reconstructive—What changes might be made? What are plans for future actions?

E-journaling has been found to encourage dialogue on multiple levels–learner to learner, learner to instructor, group, and self; to break up traditional social hierarchies; and to improve reflection on readings and participation in discussions (ibid.). As with print journals, some learners feel the e-journal provides a safer environment for self-expression than the classroom (Myers 2001; Parkyn 1999). Like other forms of distance education, e-journaling is subject to such issues as time constraints, anonymity, optimal group size, netiquette, and technical skill and support (Parkyn 1999). Written for an audience of peers, the group or team journal—whether online or in print—makes possible an exchange of energy and ideas and a synergistic process of co-learning (Andrusyszyn and Davie 1997).


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