Unit coordinators may decide to incorporate some form of ongoing journal writing into a unit as a way of obtaining evidence of their students’ (developing) reflective practice. However, “journal writing” may mean different things to different people, both teaching staff and students. Therefore it is important to clarify the dimensions of the journal-writing component at the outset.
Journals provide a scaffold for students over time, thus preserving reflections that might otherwise be lost. However, in order for reflective journals to provide sufficient evidence of students’ developing understandings over a period of time, the requirements of journal entries, and the criteria for assessing the journal need to be made explicit before students begin. This is particularly the case where students are being asked to reflect when they are off campus (e.g. during internships, or field or service learning experiences). This pattern assumes that students are already familiar with the 4Rs reflective writing framework of reporting and responding; relating; reasoning; reconstructing.
- Decide on the format of the journal. For example:
- Will students use available online tools such as blogs to help structure their journal entries, or will this aspect be at the students’ own discretion?
- If online tools are used, will students’ journal entries be open to comment either by other students or by teaching staff, or will they be private?
- Decide on the form of assessment:
- Will the cumulative entries be assessed on their quality (evidence of deep and critical thinking including higher levels of the reflective writing framework)? Note there may be marking workload implications to consider if going down this route.
- Alternatively, individual entries could be used as a source of data for a culminating reflective piece of writing which will be assessed. In this case, regularity of entries might be assessed rather than their content.
- Decide on the period of time for which the journal will be kept and how frequently you expect students to make journal entries over that time. (During internships or field experiences the period of time may be a given.)
- Decide on the sorts of scaffolding that will be required before and/or during the period that the journal is kept. For example,
- Discussion of the characteristics of journal writing together with practice in journal writing, for example by responding to a video or a specific question. (See Resources 2 & 3)
- Different prompting questions at different times for students to focus on specific aspects of their experience. (See Resource 4)
- Additional comments on the criteria for evaluation
- Using the 4Rs to structure a journal entry (responding to a question) “power writing” for practice
- Responding to a video “power writing” for practice
- Guided questioning
This pattern draws on resources developed by Suzanne Carrington and Louise Mercer (Education) in preparing students to write a reflective journal during their Service Learning in EDB004.