A Reflective Journal Entry Education Essay

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In the majority educational situations, there is substantial energy expended as learners use critical-thinking skills to explore complex concepts central to their discipline. When learners systematically engage in significant thinking, they tend to expand insights not just into the concepts but in addition the learning process as well. Educators use various strategies in seeking the one best technique to engage learners actively in their learning. Abegglen, J. & O'Neill Conger, C. (1997) recognizes the significant contribution of critical reflection in the development of specialized knowledge and clinical expertise.

Educators in education and nursing employ reflective learning journals to enhance creative and critical thinking among learners in the classroom (e.g., Allen & Enz, 1986-1987; Hahnemann, 1986; Meyers, 1986; Meyers & Jones, 1993; McCrindle & Christensen, 1995) and in the practice setting (e.g., Alm, 1996; Sedlak, 1997). A few writers offer hold up for educators themselves to become inquiring teachers (e.g., Scho¨n, 1987; Henderson, 1992) and other writers create models to enhance the teaching-learning process (e.g., McCaugherty, 1991; Hutchinson & Allen, 1997; Riley-Doucet & Wilson, 1997; Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997; Wong et al., 1997; Kember et al., 1999). It is significant to note that this strategy of reflective learning journals promotes learners to turn out to be active learners.


Although the frequent use of reflection and reflective learning journals in the literature, there is no consensus regarding how to define these terms. This lack of clarity creates tremendous difficulty in terms of operationalizing the ideas and in addition in comparing research findings Boychuk, (1999). Boyd and Fales (1983) define reflection as 'the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self and which consequences in a transformed theoretical perspective' (p. 100). This definition is widely used and appropriate to this research exploring the application of the Scanlon and Chernomas (1997) model. For purposes of this research, reflective learning journals refer to written documents that learners create as they think about different concepts, events, or interactions over a period of time for the purposes of gaining insights into self-awareness and learning.

Regarding reflection as together compound and indefinable, Pierson (1998) suggests that reflection is 'a purposeful inter-subjective process that requires the employment of both calculative and contemplative thinking' (p. 169). She expresses concern that calculative thinking (e.g., listing daily activities) instead of contemplative thinking (e.g., employing an interactive, conversational style of writing to expand self-awareness and understanding) may be more the norm in practice. Reflective thinking requires a trusting relationship if one is to write about individual thoughts, feelings, and experiences honestly; sufficient time to consider ideas significantly; active involvement; participation of self; and assurance.

"Assess," the root word of assessment, comes as of the Latin word "assidere," which means to sit beside, to observe, talk by means of, and learn as of one another (Conrad, 1995). Traditionally, the word "assessment" has referred to the way teachers assign letter grades on tests and quizzes. Assessment has in addition been used as a way to discuss teaching effectiveness (Garfield, 1994). However, assessment is now taking on a new meaning. It should be a "dynamic process that continuously yields information about learner progress toward the achievement of learning goals" (Garfield, 1994). In order for assessment to be considered authentic, it must focus on whether or not learners can apply their learning to the suitable situations (Conrad, 1995).

Methods used to measure learner learning range as of traditional standardized testing to a more organic, "authentic" approach to assessment. The current dispute in educational assessment stems as of the debate flanked by behaviourist and constructivist educators. Behaviourist theory originated as of the work of Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner and focuses on "changes in behaviour that result as of stimulus-response associations made by the learner" (Standridge, 2002). The learners are active respondents in the learning process and should be given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through observable and measurable behaviours (Ormrod, 1999). Standardized testing is one of the most obvious ways to observe and measure changes in behaviour. Although they are easy to score and interpret, these tests imply that there is a separation flanked by knowledge and the learner (Worley, 2001). This method of assessment simply offers a way for assigning numerical scores to observable behaviours but does not reveal how the learner learned or how they will be able to use their learning to solve problems (Garfield, 1994).

On the opposing side of the debate, constructivists argue that learners cannot continue to merely acquire knowledge and demonstrate it through observable and measurable changes in behaviour. Instead, learners must "construct" the meaning of knowledge as they learn it. Constructivist theory is based mainly on the work of Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky and stresses that "learning involves an active process in which learners construct meaning by linking new ideas by means of their existing knowledge" (Jones & Brader-Araje, 2002). Knowledge does not exist outside of the learner. According to Kant, "the mind offers the 'categories' of knowing, while the real world offers the content. Knowledge is thus always a construction of the mind's interaction by means of the world and cannot be reduced to one or the other" (Elkind, 1998, p. 113) In reality, learners come to the classroom by means of a wide variety of prior experiences, knowledge and beliefs that may be cultivated to offer meaningful life-long learning (Jones & Brader-Araje, 2002). Therefore, alternative assessment methods such as recordings, checklists, diaries, portfolios, learner debriefings, peer conferences and reflective journal writing are necessary inside a constructivist classroom (Worley, 2001).

Journal writing is the "recording of daily events, personal reflections, questions about the environment, and reactions to experiences" (Dyment & O'Connell, 2003). According to Chapman, it "should reflect various types of writing as well as levels of complexity related to the task assigned in the prompt" (Chapman, 1990). Instances of authentic writing in the journal include open-ended entries, where the learner constructs an entry using background knowledge, or short answer entries that demonstrate understanding of the content taught (Chapman, 1990).

Journal writing can become one of the most significant components of the assessment process because it has the potential to promote critical thinking. It in addition reinforces the significance of writing across the curriculum by means of an emphasis on process rather than product, allows for personal expression, and serves as a record of thought. Journal writing helps learners understand how they learn and it gives a voice to those who are not good at expressing themselves orally. Finally, because reflective journal writing requires active participation, the learners take ownership of their learning Brookfield, (1998).

According to Atkins, (1993), reflective journal writing serves four purposes for the learner and three for the teacher. The authors studied the journals, observation notes, conference notes and course-related projects of 34 learners in their first course of the teacher education graduate program at South-eastern University. For learners, journal writing serves as a permanent record of thoughts and experiences; establishes and maintains a relationship by means of the instructor; offers a safe outlet for frustrations and concerns; and aids internal dialogue. For the teacher, reflective journal writing serves as a window into learner thinking and learning; establishes and maintains a relationship by means of the learner; and serves as a dialogical tool.

Finally, reflective journal writing offers an opportunity for both the teacher and the learner to assess learning. As Atkins, (1993) discovered in his research on more than 20 learners in his advanced mathematics course, reflective journal writing offers learners by means of the opportunity to express connections flanked by previous knowledge and new knowledge. Although one of his Iranian learners struggled by means of English vocabulary, he was able to describe a mathematic word problem in his own words by using connections to his culture Atkins, (1993).

Reflective learning journals are recognized as a significant tool in promoting active learning among nursing learners. Essentially, nurse educators strive to encourage learners to think about past experiences, current situations, and expected outcomes of their actions so that they can explain what they do in the clinical setting and why. In other words, nurse educators seek to promote professional practice that is reflective rather than routine.

The purposes in this paper are to discuss the application of two models of reflection to a set of reflective learning journals and to offer some recommendations for educators, researchers, and learners. Using a three stage model of reflection Alm, (1996), 52 nursing learners explored managerial concepts. The major findings indicated that learners may be categorized, according to Alm, (1996), as no reflectors (i.e., lack proof of purposeful appraisal), reflectors (i.e., demonstrate insight through analysis, discrimination, and evaluation), and critical reflectors (i.e., indicate a transformation as of initial viewpoint).

The foundations for professional practice begin inside the educational system.

Educators begin the process of assisting aspiring professionals to learn how to learn.

Reflective learning journals have become a significant tool in nursing education to promote active learning among learners. Fundamentally, nurse educators strive to encourage learners to think about past experiences, current situations, and expected consequences of their actions so that they can explain what they do in various professional settings and why. Put another way, nurse educators seek to promote professional practice that is reflective rather than routine.

The purposes of this paper are to discuss the application of two models of reflection to a set of reflective learning journals and to offer some recommendations for educators, researchers, and learners. The two models include the three stages of reflection Cavanagh, (1995) and the three levels of reflection Cavanagh, (1995).


In conclusion, according to Conger, (1996), 'It is now widely accepted that successful professionals have to to reproduce upon their actions as mainly tasks they execute involve novel elements to which there are no described solutions' (p. 18). The responsibility rests by means of educators to arrange professionals for reflective practice. Inherent in this accountability is the need to determine the extent to which learning actually occurs.

Utilizing a model, as described in this presentation, offers strong evidence of learner learning. However, whereas the facilitation of learning stays by means of the educator, the final liability for learning resides by means of the learner. If we believe the words of Conger, (1996), we will all embrace the accountability plus joy of learning:

Real knowledge gets to the heart of what it means to be individual. During learning we turn out to be able to do something we certainly not were able to do. Through learning we extend our capability to produce, to be part of the generative procedure of life. There is inside each of us a deep hunger for this kind of learning.