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Reflective journals are used by learners to document the progress of learning. Students can keep reflective journals for any course they take or to manage their own personal learning. Reflecting on thoughts, ideas, feelings, and learning encourages the development of critical thinking skills by helping students self-evaluate and sort what they know from what they don't know. The process of examining one's own thoughts and feelings is particularly helpful for students who are learning new concepts or beginning to grapple with complex issues that go beyond right and wrong answers.

Reflective practice can be supported in classrooms by creating opportunities that allow students to think about their learning, their own lives, and the world around them. Reflective journals allow students to practice their writing skills in an open-ended format that encourages the same thought process that is used in analytical writing. Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde (1993) believe that the most powerful learning happens when students self-monitor, or reflect. As learners continue to distinguish what they know from what they need to reevaluate or relearn, they begin to translate discoveries they have made about their own learning into plans for improvement. Just as reflective journals open the windows of a student's mind, they also allow teachers to look in. In this way, the journals become a useful assessment tool that gives teachers additional insight into how students value their own learning and progress. http://www.teachervision.fen.com/writing/letters-and-journals/48544.html?page=1&detoured=1

Entries in a reflective journal can include:

  • Points that you found specially 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.
  • After an online class (immediately after it, if possible) it's a good idea to reinforce your learning by trying to remember the main things you learned. Think "What were the three main points that were new to me, in the material I read today?" Write them down without looking at the course notes - then compare them with those notes, to make sure you remembered the points accurately.
  • Notes from other material you read as a result of the course - whether this was publications cited, or 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 main points an article was making and how useful you found it.
  • Your reflections on this course, and how well it is meeting your needs.
  • How your learning in this course is related to what you're learning in other ways.
  • 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. http://www.audiencedialogue.net/journal.html

Some questions to pose to your students to help them start their journals:

  • What were the key points of this unit/lesson?
  • Was there anything that was particularly meaningful to you in this unit?
  • Was there anything that you felt you needed more help with?
  • What were the 3 most important things you took away from this unit/lesson?
  • What can you include in your own work based on what you learned?
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