Journals, Reflection, and Learning
A journal is a crucible for processing the raw material of experience in order to integrate it with existing knowledge and create new meaning. Among the many purposes for journal writing are the following: to break habitual ways of thinking; enhance the development of reflective judgment and metacognition; increase awareness of tacit knowledge; facilitate self-exploration and personal growth; and work out solutions to problems (Andrusyszyn and Davie 1997; Mitchell and Coltrinari 2001; Moon 1999). Moon (1999) and Carroll (1994) discuss theories and research that support a number of assumptions about learning from journals:
. 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.
English and Gillen (2001) report a dearth of research on the effectiveness of journal writing in adult education, although a few studies have demonstrated changes in thinking (Jasper 1999); more fluency in writing and language (Myers 2001); increased quality of group discussion and course performance (Kember et al. 1999; Parkyn 1999); and, in health care settings, better integration of learning and clinical practice (Jasper 1999). 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
However, before using a reflective tool such as a journal in teaching,...