This post is from a course that I took. I had to make blog posts for the course and I decided to move the posts over here when the course finished.
Porter, P., Goldstein, L., Leatherman, J., & Conrad, S. (1990). An ongoing dialogue: Learning logs for teacher preparation. In J. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.), Second language teacher education (pp. 227-229, 232-240). New York: CUP.
After keeping a reflective journal in this class, I can say that I think it is an effective learning tool. As Porter et al. mention, there is a clear connection between writing and learning (p. 227). Reading an article for the sake of reading an article is one thing, but reading an article with the idea that you will have to write about it afterwards is quite a different thing. I found that having to keep a journal made me pay better attention to the articles that I was reading.
The authors also mention the idea of reflective journal writing being a social exercise. As we had so few students in our class, I felt this never really took off. I can see it working better in a class with more students, or a class with a face-to-face component. I think there needs to be a critical mass of people in order for social reading and writing to come together nicely, and I think that if they people involved have never met each other, it can be quite difficult to get conversations to flow.
I think that I would like to try using reflective journals in my classroom. As the authors mention, journals can be a good way of understanding where students are in their understandings. Also, if students find it difficult to talk in class, they can use the journal to communicate their thinking in a less direct way. I am not certain, however, about the idea of students sharing their journal entries with each other. I am not opposed to the idea, but I am just not sure how best to do that in a class. Ideally, I would like the students to write in the target language, but since I would be teaching Japanese, that is a bit of a tall order for beginners (due to the writing systems), so that would have to happen later on in the year. Perhaps at the beginning of the year, students could write in English, and then they could transition to using Japanese. That said, I don’t want to push students ahead too far and cause their vocabulary and grammar to fossilize at the classroom pidgin level (Chen, p. 59), so I would have to wait to make this decision based on the actual students I was teaching. I would want to respond to each entry individually, but also have a “community circle” time when we could share some of the ideas that came up in the entries.
Chen, T-Y. (1995). In search of an effective grammar teaching model. English Teaching Forum, 33(3), 58-60.