Reflective Learning Journals

A Learning Journal (sometimes known as a Reflective Journal or Learning Log) is an ongoing document or record (not unlike a diary) based on your experiences, reflections and observations as a student. It is a personal record, and as such you may wish to keep the contents private.

In the above sense, a journal is distinct from a login that the latter acts more as a record of dates, events and activities. The key element of a journal is the reflective nature of the contents as an aid to assist your development as an active and engaged student. The opportunity to think about your feelings and experiences as you write is at least as important as the written record itself.

Reflective Journals can take two forms:

  • A personal record maintained by a learner for his/her own use (i.e., a private account).
  • A documented record of your learning experience submitted as a required part of your course. This form is often assessed.

What kind of material could go into a Reflective Journal?

  • Thoughts and notes on issues arising from reading or teaching session discussions; activities that you wish to explore further.
  • Questions that came up in your mind because of points made in the material you read on a topic.
  • As soon as possible after attending a class or teaching session, it is a good idea to reinforce your learning by summarizing the key elements. Try to identify a couple of major points with any supporting detail or evidence. Do this from memory; to begin with and then compare your ideas with those mentioned in any handouts or notes from your instructor. How well do they compare? Are there any gaps in your knowledge that you need to follow up?
  • Notes and thoughts based on wider reading (i.e., not just from books and articles recommended or provided by your instructor). How does this information enhance (or even deviate from) what you have covered in an online session or your discussions?
  • Your feelings and impressions on how you are progressing on your course; are things going well or are you having problems in certain areas? What are the problems and how could they be overcome or dealt with? If you do seek help via your instructor, how useful and efficient is it?
  • Your reflections on the course itself: the teaching and learning methods used; does it meet your needs? How can you adapt the approach to suit your learning preference to make the most of your learning experience?
  • If a Learning Journal is part of your course requirements and you submit it online or as an email attachment, any personal thoughts you do not wish your instructor to see should be maintained in a separate version.
  • A Learning Journal need not consist solely of text and notes but could also include diagrams, drawings, mind maps, or anything else that helps you to maintain a useful record.
  • Always remember that the fundamental purpose of a Reflective Journal is that you, the student, should be the main one to benefit from it. There is no better way of clarifying your thoughts and straightening out areas of confusion than by writing it all down. You may wonder why Learning Journals are now built into so many courses and then assessed.
  • Essentially it is for three reasons:
    • Students are more likely to remember what they have done if they keep a regular journal.
    • It is a way for your instructor to see how you feel about the course and to offer help and support if required.
    • Your instructor might be able to give you personalized feedback on subject related issues.
« Back to Student SuccessLast updated November 21, 2019