Learning journals and reflective writing

Learning journals • Reflecting on practical work • From journals to reflective essays • The 'learning cycle' and different kinds of writing • A final reflection

Journals make the learning process visible.

It forced me to explore areas I would normally have shut away.

It's good to have a section of work which takes a more relaxed and personal approach to the course.

At the beginning of this book we stressed how writing and learning are part of the same process. Whenever you write you make new knowledge for yourself, which is why no two people ever write even something simple in exactly the same way. As we have explored throughout this book, the process of writing an assignment in all its stages is part of learning the subject you are writing about. In this chapter we look more closely at writing for learning, or exploratory writing.

Until now we have been concentrating on the assignment that you hand in to your tutor, the final product that they will read and assess. This is a demonstration of what you can say and do at a particular moment. Much of the advice given to students on writing essays starts from the point of view of this end product. In this book we have been trying to combine two approaches: to think about what is required of you for the final product, and to explore the different processes you have to go through in order to get there. To do this we have often suggested that you write brief pieces to help you develop your thinking or practise your writing - to carry out exploratory writing. The purpose of such writing is to help you to learn, and you do not need to think of it as a final product. When you practise writing your knowledge in this way you are also developing your quality of writing, so exploratory writing can help you to learn and to write well. From time to time you may be asked to hand in exploratory writing to your tutor for some feedback. More often though it is something you do just for yourself, or perhaps to share with fellow students, during or outside a teaching session. In this final chapter we will be looking at an extended kind of exploratory writing: the learning journal.

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