What is a Reflective Journal?
(Excerpted & adapted from an online learning course) A reflective journal – often called a learning journal – is a steadily growing document that you (the learner) write, to record the progress of your learning. You can keep a learning journal for any course that you undertake, or even for your daily work.
A reflective journal is not…
- simply a summary of the course material. Focus more on your reactions to what you’ve read, and what you’ve been reading.
- a learning log where you might write down the times and days when you read something.
- a log is a record of events, but a journal is a record of your reflections and thoughts.
Who benefits from a reflective journal? The fact that you are keeping a record of what you learn is an incentive to keep pushing ahead. There’s an old saying “you don’t know what you know till you’ve written it down” – and several research studies have found this to be true. By telling yourself what you’ve learned, you can track the progress you’ve made. You also begin to notice the gaps in your knowledge and skills.
How to write a reflective journal A hundred years ago, distance education didn’t exist, and textbooks were very expensive to buy. Therefore, students had to attend lectures and write notes while they listened. Most of those notes simply recorded the contents of the lecture. The act of writing the notes, and deciding what to write, was a major factor in students’ learning.
The emphasis in a reflective journal is different, but the purpose is similar: to help you make sense of what you are learning.
Entries in a reflective journal can include:
- Points that you found especially interesting in your reading, and would like to follow up in more detail.
- Questions that came up in your mind, because of points made in material you read on this topic.
- Shortly after class it’s a good idea to reinforce your learning by trying to remember the main ideas of what was significant to you..
- Think “What were the three main points that were new to me, in the material I read today?” In what ways are these concepts and thoughts important to me? Write them down without looking at the course notes – then compare them with those notes, to make sure you remembered the points accurately.
- Keep notes from other material you read as a result of the course – whether this was references cited in a journal, website or video clip, or other relevant material that you happened to read (such as newspaper articles).
- A record of everything you read in this subject area, while you’re doing the course, with a sentence or two on the significant points emphasized in the article and in what ways you found this information useful to you at this time.
- Your reflections on this course, and how well it is meeting your needs.
- How your learning in this course is connected to your previous experiences either as a student, parent, or as a teacher.
- Thoughts that aren’t yet fully formed, but that you want to refine later. This could include your feelings about the course and your progress in it, and theories that are developing in your mind.
Each time you submit your reflective journal, think back over everything you’ve done since the last time. Which sources did you learn most from? Which references did you learn least from, and why was that? (Did you know the material already?) Write a paragraph or two about the sources of your new learning. Was there additional research you pursued simply because your curiosity had been piqued.
What form should the journal take? · While there are no limit placed on the number of journal entries students can submit, because this is an online course students should present at least ten journal entries over the length of the course so that the instructor be able to review your response to what your reading and experiencing, and understanding.
Some people prefer to write at a computer keyboard, while others prefer to write by hand. Depending on your preference, a reflective journal could take any of these forms:
Criteria for Reflections (what we are looking for):
The student provides personal reflections on the class content/readings.
(e.g. What did you think about the what was said/experienced? Was this new information for you? What implications does this have for your practice? How has this class expanded, complemented or contrasted with your current understanding of the topic?)
The student demonstrates critical reflection on the class content.
(e.g. Why do you believe what you do about this issue? What has shaped your perspective on your position? How has historical information informed your views?)
Your view and the presenter’s/author’s view may be different – the key is to explain why.
- What do I want to learn? Understand? Consider?
- What did I learn?
- What do I understand at this point?
- So what does this tell me about the world? Myself; personally and professionally as a beginning teacher?
- So what resonated for me about the learning?
- Now what impact will this have on me as a teaching professional?
- Now what will I do with this?
- Now what is my next learning?
You will keep a reflective journal throughout the whole 5 weeks. This will track your ideas/questions/experiences as you move through the various components of our semester. On the Monday of Week 5 you will present a synthesis of the reflective journal (along with your synthesis of your bookclub, professional development and inquiries) to one of the content instructors.