Tips and ideas on how to use Reflective Journals

Journal reflections can be used to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas to make personal links to the issues at hand from the course. Journal writing allows the students to revisit past experiences and reconsider other perspectives and ways in addressing issues and situations. Students can used reflective writing to analyze a text or a story, to raise questions on a reading, to express concerns and sketch a plan of action. They can use them to reflect on the learning experience itself and to raise awareness on the learning progress. Furthermore, journal reflections can increase knowledge of issues and skills that need to be addressed and worked on. Reflective writing helps students develop critical thinking skills and judgement. It also promotes language skills as students engage in the process of producing language.

Reflective journal can be used as a free-writing activity but it can be used in a guided format as well. The journal can include various forms of genre. It can be a place where students:

  • Write their reflections, personal thoughts and feelings. The instructor can then use these comments to start a conversation; many scholars argue that student engage in deeper reflections when these are done in conversational settings.
  • Include information on their research projects.
  • Provide responses to reflective activities such as KWL chart.
  • Create sketches on a literary piece assigned as a reading.
  • Develop a collection of quotations from academic articles that they find meaningful and comment on them.
  • Engage in role-play activity, writing from a specific angle or perspective. For example, writing a letter to the author or researcher.
  • Rewrite the endings to stories they read.

Identifying the Objectives and Expectations of Journal Writing

Purpose of journal reflections Judgement, critical thinking, awareness, confidence enhancement
Expected format Free-form, point form, responses to questions, collection of artefacts, full sentences required, etc.
Topics Specific assigned topics/questions, field notes, reflections on experiences, responses to readings
Length of writing Word limit, page limit
Deadline Weekly, before or after each lecture and class discussion, monthly, by completion of each task
Feedback / Evaluation Written feedback in the journal pages, use of rubric, oral conversations between student and instructor
Grading Pass / fail, grading score?
Access to journal reflections Instructor, TA, group members of project, group members in weekly assigned in-class discussions