Learning Journal's for developing independence

Paul Main

How to use a Learning Journal for developing independent learning.

What is a learning journal?

A learning journal is a classroom tool that can be used for many purposes. For example, to note down observations about an experience, for student engagement or to record the learning progress. A learning journal is not only a summary of the course or curriculum material; it also contains details about the reactions to what someone has learnt. In this article, we will explore how children can use a simple format for enhancing student engagement with course content.

Used to promote metacognition, college students can use these study tools to review what they have learnt and where they need to place their focus. We will also provide an idea of how these journals can be used as an examination of student attributes. When used effectively, they are not just for recording homework tasks. Children can use the journal to reflect upon their tasks identifying strengths and areas for growth. When adopted strategically, these devices can also be used for parent contributions. Providing a space for parents to comment can act as a gateway for more effective family engagement with a school.

How to create a learning journal?

If you are preparing a learning journal to scaffold your students study skills, you must consider the marking criteria and assignment instructions. Prepare your learning journal entries on basis of these. Below are some general ideas that may help you write your journal.

  1. What were the most interesting aspects of language learning (or any special issues)?
  2. What is still unclear about a current issue?
  3. What is something I would like to know more about?
  4. What did empirical studies say about an issue?
  5. What has been proved to be wrong?
  6. What has changed my mind about this topic?
  7. What was so interesting that I like to know more in detail?
  8. What was so informative that I will use in the future?
  9. Did I encounter any new vocabulary?

Students can write a summary of the journal on basis of what they have learned. For example, education students can write staff perspectives in their learning journal and write what topics were more difficult or easier to learn. How did it add to their previous learning about a topic?

simple learning journal template
simple learning journal template

How is a learning journal structured?

You can organise your learning journal by dividing it into different sections (one section for each topic/ week). You can write a heading (or an article title) for each topic. If you want to write a summary (or article abstract) of the journal, have this at the beginning of the last pages of the assignment.

In case of having in-text citations, remember to create a complete list of references on the last pages of the learning journal. For younger students, children can use a journal for documenting the tasks that need to be achieved, research that needs to be undertaken or preparation for an upcoming piece of work. The key utility for an effective journal is organisation.

A wide range of empirical studies indicates that learning journals are more useful for senior students as compared to primary school students. The language of a learning journal may include both the first and the third person. First-person is used to write about your opinion about the learning and third person (he, she or names) is used for any discussion points. A learning journal is one amongst a wide range of learning methods that may include verbatim examples i.e. examples of what you would say to another person or a client, and what they might say.

illustrated learning journal
illustrated learning journal

What are the steps of writing a learning journal?

Following are the steps of writing a learning journal.

1. Select a journal: You can use anything from a leather-bound diary to a composition book, whatever you find appealing enough to write in. As long as it has a consistent structure and the students know how to utilise it, the appearance does not matter too much.

2. Choose a specific place and time: You must pick a place that is free of pressing distractions and obligations. This has to be a particular time in which you would reflect on yourself, without thinking about other matters of life. In secondary school, this is often form time.

3. Follow a consistent structure: There is no specific format for creating a learning journal, but it is helpful to have a format for your writing. For example, sixth form students may start their entry by first defining what is their objective of learning.

4. Discuss what's affecting the learning process: Are you learning independently or with a group? What is the anonymous peer review process? How does this affect your knowledge? Was this topic assigned to you or did you do it by yourself?

5. Record your feeling, observations and reactions about the learning: Did you prove or decline? Did it change your assumptions? What has motivated you? Write down any concepts and quotes that inspired you. It's better to keep your notes and learning materials in approach for this purpose.

6. Reflect on: Record how this experience has helped you to learn and explain all the steps. How did you get to this point? What is the significance of your learning, and how does it relate to your previous learning? How can you improve in the future?

bullet points in learning journal
bullet points in learning journal

What are the benefits of a learning journal?

A learning journal is one of the wide range of the most effective active learning strategies for senior students. A learning journal facilitates in reflecting on your learning for a specific task (e.g. a current issue, literature review, publication process or book review), and can be used for different objectives including personal development planning, experiential learning and project development. Establishing a record of learning is helpful for hundreds of children in:

Using a learning journal for getting students organised
Using a learning journal for getting students organised

What are the Recommendations for writing the learning journal?

  • It is recommended to use the title of article and specific questions to format your reflective thinking.
  • Have a structure for each of the learning journal entries, which may include the topic, date, process or setting, the learning goals, and critical notes about what you did (observed or experienced) and how have you learned?
  • The portfolio must be updated. Record, reflect on and assess your learning journey (e.g. your journey of learning a language at school).
  • Monitor your progress in the activity. For instance, by using any feedback or accepted paper by the supervisor of doctoral students, by working according to a tutor's instructions and by commenting on how his instructions improved your current or future assignments and what things would you do differently.
  • Regularly update your learning journal, even if you don't have too many entries (author list or active learning strategies);
  • Remain focused on particular activities, topics or special issues for an individual entry (e.g. author affiliation or parent contributions);
  • Think about, what do you wish to improve; and how you may resolve or address any issue? (e.g. your understanding of the narrative review);
  • Use analytical approach, avoid long descriptive writing (e.g. while selecting a title of paper; or details of development over time);
  • Use prompts or questions to keep your focus on the task (e.g. while learning a language at school);
  • Identify themes and the longer-term action you may need to take (e.g. while selecting article collections or author biographies)
  • Review the entries to enhance a specific study skill (g. author names or author responsibilities);
  • Go back to your learning experience and try and understand each step at a deeper level (g. author guidelines and author rights);
  • Use your understanding to do things in a better way in the future, keep your focus on development over time and bring a change through learning.

Using visual tools to help students get organised
Using visual tools to help students get organised

Don't forget that writing itself is a learning tool. You may use writing to investigate concepts as a way to understand them. The templates should be designed to help learners clarify their thinking – you may format your learning journal as per your requirements.

Your learning journal may include other entries related to your reflective learning e.g. staff perspectives about an issue. These can be ‘objective’, ‘result’, ‘focus’, ‘process’, ‘audience', theory’, and other entries. The most important is to use the main reflective questions to assess your learning (How was the experience of oral proficiency development? What did I learn while oral proficiency development?), to reflect on learning at a deeper level (How are philosophical discussions significant to me in the context of my past learning?), and to use understanding to further develop your learning (What did you learn from work-based learning? What are the different aspects of development? How have your learning changed the way you would do things in the future studies?).