Understanding What a Learning Journal Actually is

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The learning journal provides an growing understanding of a topic or experience and is "to support academic inquiry and to create a history of learning for students to explore ideas, ask questions and respond personally to their experiences with reflection" (Popp, 1997). Daudelin (1996) states "reflection is the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self through the development of inferences; learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behaviour". This definition explicitly captures the relation of reflection to learning when learning is defined as understanding of past experience to affect future experience and it suggests that reflection is therefore integral to learning.

My Learning Style

Prior to an evaluation of my skills development it is central to establish my dominant learning style. With the use of Kolb's et al (1984) 'Learning Style Inventory' (LSI) and Myres-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theory I have been able to evaluate my aptitude and learning styles with the results illustrated in 'Appendix 1'.

Kolb's 'Learning Style Inventory' illustrated in 'figure 1' is designed to help individuals identify the way they learn from experience. Zanich (1991) states the Learning Style Inventory is "a simple self-description test, based on experiential learning theory, designed to measure your weaknesses and strengths as a learner".


Source: Kolb et al. (1984)


The results of my L.S.I assessment in 'appendix 1' show that I have an direction towards 'Abstract Conceptualization'. This suggests I am a 'theorist' and focus on logical analysis of ideas and act on intellectual understanding of a situation. Kolb (1999) however goes on to say it is the grouping of the results from the inventory that will describe an individual's learning style most accurately. As shown in 'figure 2' the combination of my results (a high score in AE and AC) specify I encompass a 'converging' learning style.

Individuals with a 'converging learning style' are said to use their hypothetical-reasoning to solve a problem and find solutions to practical issues (Syed-Khuzzan & Goulding, 2009). They also favour facts, working independently and will seek to make things efficient by making small and cautious changes (Kolb, 1979). In addition to this Tobei (2009) suggests that those with this style "learn through interaction and that computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods". This is accurate in its depiction of my learning preference as I prefer learning through contact, computers and working alone in finding answers to solutions. Kolb (1984) states the vigour of those with a 'converging learning style' is that they think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. The results of my learning style and the strengths of those associated with it are encouraging as my degree of study (Economics Bsc) is based on statistical theory and techniques for application in economic theory.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was also designed to assess personality types and interpersonal functioning and has been commonly used in determining learning styles (Golay, 1982). The results from my MBTI test compliment my LSI score. Myers (1990) suggest that those with the 'INTP' learning style are quiet, flexible, "theoretical and interested more in ideas than in social interaction with the unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest" and can often be sceptical. I am in agreement with both sets of results as I am more of a 'thinking' orientated learner and prefer to solve problems using reasoning and working independently. Both tests showing similar and truthful results so therefore it can be concluded that both are accurate.

Kolb et al (1984) also mentions that there are strengths and weaknesses coupled with each style and that it may change from time to time and situation to situation. This idea is supported in my LSI results where I have a high orientation towards an 'Active Experimentation' (AE) style however the score of my 'Reflective Observation' (RO) and 'Concrete experience' (CE) style preference have little distinction between them. This suggests that although I prefer 'thinking' and 'doing' I am willing to adopt and adapt my learning style to embrace 'watching' and 'feeling'. Kolb (1984) highlights that people who prefer a learning style will tend to learn more effectively if learning is orientated according to their preference however also acknowledges that restricting students to learning in one style tends to "prevent them from developing their full learning potential" and that it is more effective to devise a curriculum engaging learners of every style (Delahoussaye, 2002).

Many studies have highlighted the usefulness of determining learning styles with respect to individual development and as I will be basing my learning development on my determined learning style there is a need to be aware of the criticisms of such theories. An non-peer-reviewed literature review critiques Kolb's learning style inventory and other learning style models by disputing their reliability stating there is "no evidence that 'matching' improves academic performance in further education" (Coddielt et al, 2004) and Kolb (1984) himself admits that LSI is not definitive or always accurate. Learning styles can however be very useful to students to gain self-awareness (Evans et al, 1998) and I and many other students feel that this is true.

Skills Development

My second year at university has been one of reflection and development as I have become more self-aware about my strengths and weaknesses. I have chosen to evaluate with the application of learning theory my development within the undergraduate programme, how I am approaching the upcoming assessment period and the skills I feel are most important for a successful career after graduation from university. Throughout my skills development I have used Kolb's Learning Cycle theory (illustrated in 'figure 3') which I learnt about in my first year at university. Kolb's learning cycle has enabled me highlight and address my weaknesses while improving my skills.


The Kolb Cycle - made up of four stages (see text description below)

Source: http://www.ldu.leeds.ac.uk

1. Organisation and Presentation Skills

Presentation and organisation skills are very important in the workplace and employers are said to place great value on both presentation and organisation skills (Gupta, 2008). In my first year at university I had to give a presentation as part of a skill building task and in my Personal Management Development module in the current academic year I have given an assessed group presentation. In preparation for both my individual and group presentations I feel I demonstrated good organisation and presentation skills. I have always considered myself to be well organised however found that during my second year at university with a higher work load it has been challenging and this has made me aware of the need to prepare in advance for assignments. In my second year I have also made sure to organise my notes and research material in a more orderly manner specifically aimed at aiding me more efficiently during the assessment period.

Although I felt that my group presentation was well organised and effective, feedback from the assessor informed us that as a group we failed to enrich the presentation. I personally had found it difficult to find ways to enhance the presentation style. For example, my section of the presentation although was short and precise it was a actually a collection of facts and theory. This can be applied to Whetton and Camerons (2007) 'Five S's Approach to an Effective Presentation illustrated in 'figure 4'.


Source: Whetton & Cameron, 2007

Application of this model to me shows that I am good at all the five steps except I fail to perform in 'combining ideas with an enhancing presentation style'. There is no widely accepted theory or model for an effective presentation but most authors give emphasis to in depth preparation and rehearsal. This is further supported by Bradbury (2009) 'Seven Basic Steps for Successful Presentation Skills' illustrated in 'figure 5'.


Seven Basic Steps for Successful Presentation Skills'

Decide what you want to achieve.

Decide whether a formal presentation is the best way to achieve this objective.

If you decide to go ahead with the presentation decide what form it should take.

Prepare a script

Design and prepare your visual aids and handouts.


Do it

Source: Bradbury, 2006

For future presentations I have learnt to employ an enhancing presentation style which is more attention grabbing and can help me further in presenting an argument or engaging the audience. To enable me to do this for example I will use more visual aids such as bold titles, images and statistics (Jay and Jay, 2004). I have also realised through application of the above models that for future presentations I will need to rehearse more than I have done in the past as the success of an argument is said to depend on the thoroughness of the presentation (Herr et al, 2001). Herr et al (2001) states rehearsal is the critical to the effectiveness of a presentation and helps refine timing, reduces reliance on notes and builds confidence.

I recently went for a job interview where one of the tasks asked of me were to persuade the employee why I should get the job. I was successful in persuading him and got the employment as I incorporated in this interview the techniques I learnt above about presentation skills. In the task where I was asked to sell myself I used bold descriptions rather than boring facts. Although an interview is different to a presentation having an interdependent task and having to adapt with the knowledge I have complimented my learning style.

2. Time Management, Stress Management and Essay Writing Skills

The general trend from the transition as a first year student to second year was that the expectation for the quality of the work had been raised as had the work load. This increase of work became ever more evident in the first semester of my second year where I had several assignments due all near the same date. During this period I also had commitments to my football team and had to go work during the weekends. Increasing pressure to achieve good results in my degree and meet my work and sport commitments meant I had to become flexible and more efficient in my time management. Despite commitments and a high work load with the need to prioritise my time I found that I could still fit in socialising and leisure time although I did feel the increasing need for stress management.

Jamison (2001) defines stress as "a physical and psycho-emotional state of excessive arousal" and it can be caused when there is "an imbalance between the stimulus and the individuals coping strategies". Whetton and Cameron (2007) identify the four main sources of stress as Encounter, Situational and Anticipatory stressors and as in my situation Time stressors. The use of good planning and time management I found helped my counter my stressors and some of the methods I employed are suggested by Whetton and Cameron (2007 p129) in their '20 Rules for Everyone'. During the first semester I was making use of my planner and ensuring I made efficient use of my time by breaking down tasks and setting personal goals. My sport and frequent exercise is also considered to have helped me as a balanced diet and other practical strategies are said to help prevent Encounter or Anticipatory stressors (Chandler and Brown, 2007).

Application of Lewin's (1997) Stress Force Field diagram as illustrated in 'figure 6' shows that if the strength of the Time stressor on me has little effect because of my restraining force of good time management then both driving and restraining forces are equal.



Source: PMD Lecture notes, 2010

Better time management and clearer goals led me to researching further in how to improve my essay writing skills which was an area that I had underachieved in during my first year of university. Support from the study advice services highlighted that to improve my essay writing skills I would need to ensure my work is evaluative and critical ensuring all points are supported with evidence and references. Building on this further I have used Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning illustrated in 'figure 7' which is a classification of learning objectives within education systems (Chyung and Stepich, 2003). I employed elements from the 'Evaluation' and 'Analysis' throughout my work by searching for a variety of perspectives to an argument and by using a variety of research resources such as journals. Employment of Blooms taxonomy is said to be an excellent framework for guiding comprehension insutructions (Buehl, 2008) and it has enabled me to ask deeper questions in my essay writing. Critics of Bloom's Taxonomy highlight that the model "focuses on thinking processes in isolation and does not consider how these processes may iperate differently on particular kinds of information" (Harmon and Jones, 2005) howver the framework has been widely adopted and is used extensively used and updated. (change slightly this). Blooms taxonomy helped me even more during my assessment period in answer to questions which I was more evaluative.

I improved my essay writing and evaluative skills through theory which complimented my learning style. (write about you managed time and stress through blahblah which shows you can adopt other ways).



Source: http://bit.ly/a5btcu

3) Teamwork Skills and Leadership Skills

Prior to university during my time at sixth form I took park in the Duke of Edinborough Award programme which incorporated a great amount of teamwork and leadership activities. As part of the programme we were taken to a camping site as part of an expedition where I was presented with a number of group activities such as planning, training, setting up camp and hiking which allowed me to develop my team practical and social skills as i needed to show intiative.


Evaluation of my development shows I have employed Argyris and Schon's double-loop learning model as illustrated in 'figure 12121'.


Source: http://www.leadershipnow.com

Double-loop learning is said to occur "when the monitoring process initiates action to refine the 'governing variables' to meet the new situation, which may be imposed by the external environment" (Armstrong, 2006). As the model suggests my development shows I have used feedback from past actions for example in my previous year of university and prior to that to question underlying current views such as weaknesses in my skills. The use of theories and models have enabled me to evaluate outcomes and with my desired outcomes and apply double-loop learning to aim at the desired outcomes. For example although my preferred learning style has been evident throughout my development I have shown not to hesitate to question this value and adopt different learning styles for effective learning in different situations. GOAL FOR THE SUMMER improve this so i can DO THIS.