A month later I realised that it is indeed a treasure of good practice. It helped me to evaluate the actions I tried, and it was a brilliant way of capturing things that I have learned and a way to demonstrate impact. It made me think. I realised that I cannot improve and change something that I am not aware of in the first place and the learning journal was helping me with each passing day to be aware of it. My learning journal became my most essential learning tool. And here I am writing today about learning journal as a self-professional development tool.
What is a learning journal?
A learning journal is a working document that is steadily growing, in which you write, to record the progress of your learning. What it does is, it helps to evaluate a learning experience at one’s own pitch and pace. There is no hard and fast rule that I must do it instantly. It is up to each individual to reflect and review the learning journey and move it forward to boost one’s professional learning. The learning journal is far from being descriptive. It is all about reflection, change and development and what it can do for self-esteem and self-worth. It is a document that makes you celebrate your little steps towards the bigger learning outcome. It also gives you a chance to set yourself up with a challenge for success.
Even though a learning journal is a self-celebration of one’s own achievement, it can also contain something bad that has happened to you, so that you can self-reflect on it and learn from the experience. A learning journal is an excellent opportunity for a professional specially in the field of education, to demonstrate one’s skills of critical reflection and reflective practice. While on my journey of writing a reflective journal, I have had the opportunity to add new ideas to my thinking on the same subject matter and its relation to practice. While learning new things from different professional training programmes, the journal has encouraged me to engage with some aspect of the learning from that training and assimilate that learning at a deeper level. Writing it over a period of time shows the reflective responses that help understand development of learning over time. When I write entries in my journal, I will record the specific area of study or experience or practice that I have chosen to write about, reflecting on my own response, evaluating it and articulating the questions that the learning or experience has raised for me. Sometimes may re-visit some entries in the light of new learning. I have seen professionals use other genres of writing – a poem, a song, or a letter, for example.
Critical thinking lies at the heart of an effective learning journal. Use your journal to reflect critically on events at school and ways of deriving learning from them. This means setting preconceptions aside and reaching judgements or conclusions based on the merits of each situation being reflected on. It is this layer of critical thinking that lifts a journal from simple description into the realms of tangible learning.
Practical pointers which will help to ensure that any journaling you do is as fruitful as possible:
- Interpret events or situations
- Do not merely describe.
- Record the questions that arise
- Attempt to respond to it.
- Articulate any new insights that occur to you and consider how you might build on, or test, them.
- When expressing a view or an opinion, explain how you arrived at it.
- Suggest actions arising out of your reflections: make your learning transformative.
Explore your own reactions to what you are writing about: take time to articulate them as honestly and accurately as you can. A learning journal that’s reflective will help you find the source of your inspiration that defines you today. A reflective journal also provides a better understanding of your thought process. My learning journal helped me to understand the things that have happened and to reflect on why it happened this way. It has helped me a lot to align future actions with my values and lessons learned from my past experiences. And sometimes it was just an emotional outlet for me to share and get my thoughts and ideas out of my head. The best takeaway from a learning journal is its learning-driven approach in performance management, rather than the regular target-based approach. This is one particular and very effective tool that individuals can very easily adopt to bolster their learning at work. Learning journal is a great way of spotting links and patterns and of using past experiences to inform learning for the future. It is a brilliant record of improving performance and personal wellbeing.
If you are embarking on a journey of writing a reflective journal, please remember that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of doing it. The overall aim is that it helps you in your work. It doesn’t matter what you decide – the important thing is that once you start, you keep going so that your journal has a chance to bear fruit! Make sure that you are absolutely clear on the purpose of the journal. This is about furthering your learning , Reflection should be at the heart of your journal; the kind of reflection which will lead to change over time. Put the events that you are reflecting on in context and aim to bring in the wider world of education, too. An irony of teaching is that it can be an insular job, so the more connections you can make outside your school the better. As you read back over your journal, keep an eye on the extent to which you are analysing and processing. If you aren’t doing either of those, your journal is simply a log; interesting, but not likely to develop your learning. Think of it as a process of digestion rather than just reiterating.