To write is to think. Writing a journal at the end of a class session offers an opportunity for students to reflect and express their thoughts on their classroom experiences freely. Although writing can be hard, it is an academic requirement for the students at all levels. Journaling is one of the critical routines that teachers can use to ensure improvement of teaching and learning in the classroom.
As a teacher in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of the Southern Caribbean, I always ask students to write a reflective journal at the end of the class session. A percentage of the grade each semester is allotted to students’ journal writing activity. Journaling encourages students to develop strong writing skills and serves as a formal feedback mechanism between teacher and students.
I engage my students in journaling by providing three standard questions as suggested by Green and Green:
- What went well for you in the lesson?
- What could be done to improve the lesson?
- What questions and comments do you have about the lesson?
In response to the third question, students pose questions, and express appreciation, and give commendations. The questions act as a stimulus and focus for thought as students write their reflective responses.
During the Covid pandemic, I assigned eight weekly journal entries for my Classroom Management course using these questions. When I assessed the responses, I learned about things that were going well, such as established and agreed upon class rules, and the use of technology in content delivery. I also learned that they were overwhelmed by the reading assignments and were having difficulty in locating journal articles not listed on the course outline. In addition, students noted that active participation made the learning more enjoyable and that they felt that the class content was enhanced by seeing how I applied classroom management strategies in the class to create an organized, safe, and controlled learning environment.
The journaling allowed timely feedback from students as the course progressed so that I was able to make adjustments throughout during a time when adjustments were especially needed. This experience emphasized several advantages of journaling for me:
- Students and teachers are able to collaborate in establishing and improving students’ learning experiences in the classroom.
- Journaling provides a strong classroom communication structure between teachers and students.
- Journaling allows teachers to receive immediate feedback from students to improve their teaching approaches.
- Students develop writing, reflection, and critical thinking skills through the journaling routine.
Journaling provides a rich source of qualitative data for evidence-based research in education, and has many benefits for teachers and for their students.