The second CPD Week to explore the value of keeping a reflective learning journal as part of a professional development process, which examines the finer details and considerations involvedword-7520901

CPD Week info sheet – learning journal examples.doc

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Peter F Drucker

Last issue we took a look at the basics of starting a professional learning journal: the various types there can be, key principles of learning journals, and thinking critically with a view to enhancing development. This issue we look at the finer details of starting a professional learning journal, and the uses it may have. You may also want to view this resource sheet which offers activities and further information on keeping a professional learning journal.

If you’re just start to use a professional learning journal and are wondering exactly what use and purpose it might have in your professional and personal life, the ideas below will help.

Possible uses
There are numerous uses for professional learning journals; if you begin the process by working out what it is that you want to get from it (to some extent at least), you’re more likely to achieve success. Set about it with no overall goal and the chances are you won’t see much benefit from the process.

In her book, Learning Journals: a handbook for reflective practice and professional development, 2nd ed (published by Routledge), Jennifer Moon identifies several specific purposes of learning journals. These include:

  • To record experience: part of the recording process is also a processing one. In other words, it’s not all about writing what happened; it’s about analysing that too. You’re not simply keeping a log.
  • To help to facilitate learning from experience: this will help you to enter a cycle of action, reflection, transformed action and further reflection.
  • To support understanding and the representation of that understanding: this helps you to focus your learning and ‘re-present’ it for yourself.
  • To develop critical thinking or a questioning attitude: this can help to propel you towards change in your practice.
  • To encourage metacognition: journal writing can help you to become more aware of your learning process, bringing your experience of being a teacher to life.
  • To increase active involvement in, and ownership of, learning: it is a way of bringing what’s ‘out there’ within. Think of the process of keeping a development journal as akin to digestion!
  • To increase ability in reflection and thinking: these are fundamental to taking a ‘deep’ approach to learning.
  • To enhance problem-solving skills: akin to ‘thinking aloud’.
  • To enhance reflective practice: although difficult to pin down, reflective practice can be enhanced through keeping a journal which encourages the cycle of action, reflection, action etc.
  • For reasons of personal development and self-empowerment: at times when confidence may be lacking, a journal can help to develop the self-mentor within.
  • To enhance creativity: using a journal can help to filter out the ‘detritus’ of every day life, leaving the core of recent learning and space for new ways of thinking.
  • To improve or give ‘voice’: writing a journal provides you with an alternative voice: this can give you insights into who you are in a professional (and sometimes personal) context.

Getting started
Thinking in advance about what it is you want to get from a professional learning journal will help you to develop a framework for completing it that you are most likely to stick to. These ideas will help:

  • Don’t restrict yourself through desires for rigid structure. The way you start your journal may not be the way you continue it, and developing inflexible frameworks at the outset will not be helpful.
  • Think about how much interaction you want to have with your journal. Be warned, journal writing can become addictive! Think about whether you want it to be a daily, weekly, monthly or termly interaction. I would suggest that at least weekly is a goal to go for. Don’t commit to making entries of a particular length; there may be occasions when just a word or a phrase will do. Likewise, other days may elicit lengthy outpourings!
  • Be very mindful of confidentiality and child protection issues. Your journal should be considered a confidential document and great care should be taken to ensure that it remains in your care at all times. There have been some very embarrassing and public data protection issues that have arisen from teachers’ notes falling into the wrong hands. Just take care and use common sense. In theory, don’t commit to the page what you wouldn’t want to be published, just in case. Never write a child’s name in full, or even in initials which could be identifiable. If necessary, devise ways of referring to children which make them unidentifiable to others. Likewise, any self-disclosure should be purposeful and not leave you feeling open and vulnerable.
  • Consider how you will go about ring-fencing time for your journal.
  • It is a good idea to do regular evaluations of how you are getting on with the concept of keeping a professional learning journal. Identify the positive impact it is having on your learning and practice.
  • Be honest with yourself! This is for your eyes only, but if you think you might get more from the process by having an external reader, see if you can collaborate with a trusted colleague.

Find out more…
If you want to find out more about journal writing, read the last issue of CPD Week and download an information sheet on the issue.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.