Reflective Journal

Table of Content

Why Use the Journaling Process?

Journaling in its various forms is a means for recording personal thoughts, daily experiences, and evolving insights. The process often evokes conversations with self, another person, or even an imagined other person. Add the advantage available in most journaling formats of being able to review or reread earlier reflections and a progressive clarification of insights is possible.

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In the adult education classroom, this learning method becomes a tool to aid learners in terms of personal growth, synthesis, and/or reflection on new information that is acquired. I urge my learners to use one of the journaling formats as a means for assisting them obtain the maximum amount of interaction, knowledge, and personal growth from their reading efforts or other learning experiences.

There also is the potential for a journaling technique to promote critical self-reflection where dilemmas, contradictions, and evolving worldviews are questioned or challenged. In the graduate classroom, for example, this may be an especially valued result as teachers attempt to facilitate a professional development in their learners. Learning something that is new or different and then reflecting on what that means for a current or expected professional position can be an important outcome. Some of my students include portions of a journal or diary in a professional portfolio as a means of demonstrating to current or prospective employers their ability to critically reflect on issues.

I also urge my students to incorporate such self-reflection through a journaling technique into the development of a personal statement of philosophy or a code of personal ethics (Hiemstra, 1999). “This recognition of personal values, beliefs, and the various changes a person undergoes throughout life, if combined with a personal philosophy statement, can result in foundational tools useful as guides or mirrors for subsequent professional action and ethical decision making” (Hiemstra, 1988, p. 178).

The purpose of the next section is to describe a variety of these journaling techniques, types, and formats. Several have been tailored to fit my particular instructional philosophy and approach, so you may need to make appropriate adjustments if you decide to use them in your own classroom (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990). I have additional material related to many of the techniques at Hiemstra (2000). References Adams, K. The Way of the Journal: A Journey Therapy Workbook for Healing (2nd Edition). Towson, MD: Sidran Press, 1998.

Bethards, B. The Dream Book: Symbols for Self-Understanding (Rev. ed.). Boston: Element Books, 1997.

Brockett, R. G., and Hiemstra, R. Self-Direction in Adult Learning: Perspectives on Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Brookfield, S. D. Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987.

Brookfield, S. D. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.

Bruce, R. “Strange but True: Improve your Health Through Journaling.” May, 1998. Web address: []

Christensen, R. S. “Dear Diary — A Learning Tool for Adults.” Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 1981, 5(2), 4-5, 23.

Cortright, S. M. Journaling: A Tool for the Spirit. Mar. 2000. Web address: []

Hiemstra, R. “Translating Personal Values and Philosophy into Practical Action.” In R. G. Brockett (ed.), Ethical Issues in Adult Education. New York: Teachers College Press, 1988.

Hiemstra, R. “Ethics and the Adult Educator.” Jan. 1999. Web Address: [].

Hiemstra, R. “Techniques, Tools, and Resources for the Self-Directed Learner.” Mar 2000. Web address: [].

Hiemstra, R., and Brier, E. Professional Writing: Processes, Strategies, and Tips for Publishing in Educational Publishing, 1994.

Hiemstra, R., and Sisco, B. Individualizing Instruction: Making Learning Personal, Empowering, and Successful. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.

Knowles, M. S. Self-Directed Learning. New York: Association Press, 1975.

“Life Journal” (a web page describing software for personal journal writing). 1999. Web address: [].

“My Story: The Complete Autobiography Writer System” (a web page describing software for personal journal writing). 1998. Web address: [].

O’Hanlon, C. “The Professional Journal, Genres and Personal Development in Higher Education.” In S. Hollingsworth (ed.), International Action Research: A Casebook for Educational Reform. London: The Falmer Press, 1997.

Perham, A. J. “Collaborative Journals.” Paper presented at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference, 1992. (ED 355 555)

Progoff, I. At a Journal Workshop. New York: Dialogue House Library, 1975.

Roger Hiemstra is Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.

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