Reflecting in Writing
Considerable research supports the role that writing can play in learning. Writing forces learners to make their vague ideas explicit in language, allowing both teachers and learners to examine and analyze their thoughts.
Journals consist of brief, informal entries written over time, prompt reflection and analysis of concepts or processes. They may be written in response to prompts designed to elicit specific understandings or misconceptions or they may be more open, allowing learners to make decisions about what kind of reflection would be most beneficial for them.
Journals are designed to help learners:
Journals are designed to help teachers:
- Organize their reflections on the project and the process
- Document their work, feelings, thinking, needs, and attitudes for self-assessment during and at the end of the project
- Provide a place for them to write questions and comments for the teacher to respond
- Gain insights into individual learner learning, thinking, and group processes not evident in the product and not available through observations
- Compare early and late entries to determine learner progress
- Provide early and on-going feedback to learners and to get feedback on learners' understanding of the project, process, or of a particular activity
- Reflect on their teaching and plan future teaching
Different types of journals can be used for different kinds of learning activities. Varying the method and format for journal-writing can help keep learners engaged in reflecting on their writing.
Managing journals can be a challenge for teachers where responding to individual journals in a timely manner can be overwhelming. One way to address this problem is to teach learners effective strategies for assessing and responding to their peers’ reflections. This ensures that learners get constructive, frequent feedback even when a teacher is unable to respond. To collect the information necessary to plan teaching, teachers can read randomly chosen journals and target particular learners’ journals to read based on classroom observations. Finally, when learners write to themselves as an audience, they can use their journal entries to reflect on their learning over time and describe how they used the writing to explore their own understanding. If the writing in the journals is an integral part of their learning, learners can be motivated to take them seriously and to recognize the benefit of this self-assessment activity even without constant teacher feedback.
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