Karen Lauterbach, Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen
Using Learning Journals to Enhance Students’ Reflections on Learning
Based on the experience that there is a tension between the ideal of engaging students actively in teaching on the one hand, and students’ preference of lecture-oriented teaching as well as low self-assessment of their own contributions on the other, this project explored ways to enhance students’ reflections of their own learning practices. This was done through the introduction of learning journals (log books) in one thematic course (titled ‘African Mobilities: Dynamics of Displacement and Migration) that I taught in the spring term 2013. The journals were not assessed after the course, but were given to me if the students wanted to.
Learning journals have been used in a variety of disciplines with the overall aim of strengthening students’ involvement and engagement in their learning processes. This is seen as opposed to students being passive recipients of knowledge. Learning journals have been used with the purpose of deepening the quality of learning, enhancing personal ownership of learning, enhancing personal valuing of the self, recording experiences of learning over a period of time, empowering and giving voice to students (Boud 2001, Morrison 1996, Park 2003).
The particular aim of introducing learning journals was to encourage students to reflect on how they learn; what were their former learning experiences at university, in what circumstances had they acquired new knowledge and been able to apply this in new contexts? Part of this reflection was to get students to think more broadly on how, when and where they learn. Consequently, one of the first exercises was to note in the log book what learning-related activities (other than reading and preparing a student presentation) students had been engaged in. Students were encouraged to use their journals throughout the course and this was incited by log book exercises in class.
At the end of the course the students were asked to write half a page on their learning experiences in the course. Interestingly, the students did not mention the use of their log books (other than they had not used them enough, but liked the idea of them), but they reflected on their learning in terms of the important of preparation for participating actively in class, learning through provocations as well as learning related to the structure of the course and the course activities.
Boud, D. 2001. Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice, in English, L.M. & Gillen, M.A. (eds.) Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90, San Francisco: Joessey-Bass, pp. 9-18.
Morrison, K. 2006. Developing reflective practice in higher education degree students through a learning journal, Studies in Higher Education, 21(3): 317-332.
Park, C. 2003. Engaging Students in the Learning Process: the learning journal, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27(2): 183-199.