The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center (Northern Illinois University) has some excellent resources on learning design; the following is excerpted from one of their references (full citation at the end).
Reflective journals are personal records of students’ learning experiences. Students typically are asked by their instructors to record learning-related incidents, sometimes during the learning process but more often just after they occur. Entries in journals and learning logs can be prompted by questions about course content, assignments, exams, students’ own ideas or students’ thought processes about what happened in a particular class period. Journals and learning logs are then submitted to the instructor for feedback. Both paper-based and online journals or logs can be turned in before or after each class period or at any other designated time.
Types of Reflections
Journals and learning logs can be used to reflect on a range of issues and situations from numerous viewpoints and perspectives. The following descriptions depict a reflection on university student groups and drinking. Possible student comments are in italics.
Observations—At this stage a student would write about what they actually saw or their viewpoint on a particular event. For example, at the pre-game parties outside the stadium I saw student groups guzzling buckets of beer.
Questions—Upon reflection, the student could ask the question, Why do the all of the student groups drink together at football games but don’t seem to get along when they don’t drink?
Speculations—After thinking about the situation, the student could reflect, Maybe it’s possible that that student groups drink because it’s easier to socialize that way. Or, maybe they think that they have to drink because everyone else does!
Self-awareness—At this point a student may place himself or herself in the situation by considering the ramifications. I really don’t think I need to drink to be able to socialize with my friends and think we would get into trouble if we decided to drink as much as the groups do.
Integration of theory and ideas—By reflecting on theories or ideas about cultural norms the student has connected the experience with what he or she has learned. The student might write, Social norm theory explains that particular group members think other group members drink more than their group does.
Critique—This is where the student may self-reflect on or “critique” the situation by writing, I can now reflect on my own drinking experiences to see if I really drink because my friends do.
The Reflection Cycle
Reflecting is a cyclical process, where recording ones thoughts (reflecting) “leads to improvement and/or insight.” Improvement could mean progress, development, growth, maturity, enhancement, or any number of words which could imply change. In education, we want students to change for the better, to grow while learning and to mature into knowledgeable adults. Recording what has happened, reflecting on processes and analyzing to improve deeper learning all can lead to new dimensions of students’ inner selves.
Evaluation Take Away: Qualitative and quantitative analysis over the course of the reflective journaling process can yield powerful data regarding the program and underlying processes.
Obsidian Communications has developed a modular, online journaling system that supports reflective journaling – including the capture and subsequent analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. For more information and a live demonstration of this platform, go to Online Journal Application / Prototype..