Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Old is New Again: Journals in Adult Learning

Journal Writing and Adult Learning
More old news that seems relevant today. This article predates mainstream blogging and draws on research on adults using learning journals (mostly done before the web), but the challenges and opportunities it outlines are familiar if you've been following the introduction of blogs into classrooms in the last couple of years. The challenges in a nutshell: writing is hard work, instructor's help is necessary for most people to get rolling, and many students will still just jump through hoops.
"Three nursing education studies found that students wrote more descriptively than reflectively; some resisted journals as 'busy work,' or their writing slacked off after initial enthusiasm. Journal entries by teacher trainees were classified in three stages: reaction/response, elaboration, and contemplation; however, few entries reached that third, reflective stage. These examples show that proficiency with reflection is a key to success.

Sommer identifies another potential difficulty: 'as a completely open-ended assignment, journals are doomed to failure'."
And the positive stuff we're also mostly familiar with, but I thought this was articulated well:
"Journals are tools for growth through critical reflection, for it is not enough to observe and record experiences, but 'equally important is the ability to make meaning out of what is expressed'. Writing is a critical ingredient in meaning making, enabling learners to articulate connections between new information and what they already know. The journal becomes another text on which to reflect, but it is a text written in the learner's authentic voice, and this personal engagement adds a necessary affective element to the learning process."

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