Instead of selecting the reflective questions for your students, you can allow them to make the choices themselves. This has the advantage of further developing their independence and metacognitive abilities. (You may use the guidelines below with Reflection Menu as the ‘detail guidelines’ of your students’ guidebook)
What to reflect on?
One important step in completing this reflective journal is to select your own reflection questions to reflect on from the Reflection Menu.
In the Reflection Menu, there are two areas of reflection, each representing three focuses of reflection.
You have the choice of reflecting on which focus(es) in each entry.
But at the end of this semester, you should have reflected on every focus for at least once.
Reflect on one or more focuses for each entry.
You are not required to answer all the questions. They are only there to help you.
But you are strongly advised to go through all three stages (awareness, evaluation and regulation) every time to get the full benefit of the exercise.
You might find it hard to limit yourself to the focuses of reflection as soon as you start writing. Follow your mind and go where it takes you.
If that is the case, you could use the menu as a checklist to see what you have covered this time. Start from one of those you have left out next time.
Writing your own prompt questions
Our list is non-exhaustive, feel free to use your own prompting questions if ours couldn’t do the best job for you! There are no rules in how to write the best questions for guiding reflective thinking. But there are certain things that might be useful to consider when you write your own prompt questions. Here we shall describe those we have used in building our Prompt Question Bank, for your reference.
The backbone of the Prompt Question Bank is a sequence of metacognitive reflections – the awareness of one’s learning experience, the evaluation of the experience, and the regulation of one’s attitude and behaviour for better performance and more fruitful experience. They are elements of one’s metacognitive abilities that enable one to become better than oneself, i.e. to grow, and reflection is the mediating process essential to the development and operation of these abilities. Therefore it is recommendable that when you write your own prompt questions set, bear in mind sequence of metacognitive reflections so that your questions may guide your students towards developing themselves as independent, reflective learners.
Awareness of one’s learning experience
Awareness of the current state is a necessary prerequisite of any conscious improvement. Students often do their study without knowing much about their current state of learning (e.g. how they learn, why they learn, etc). Reflective learning journal is a good place for one to start noticing their learning experiences.
Evaluation of the experience
Between being aware of one’s learning experience and taking steps to do better is a stage where judgements must be made. An evaluation of the current state identifies problems and creates a felt need for change. It is sometimes useful to provide some criteria for evaluation. For example, in the prompt question “Do I understand what I have learnt”, understanding is a criterion for the evaluation, as contrast to memorisation that some students believe.
Regulation of one’s attitude and behaviour
Knowing how one is doing does not lead to improvement unless one is willing to make some adjustments accordingly. This is where remedies are generated and alternatives considered. Writing the plans down also helps students commit to doing them. Questions at this stage are very important as they help students look at the situation in a positive light, rather than leaving them in despair which the finding out of problems at the evaluation stage has created.
Implementing Reflective Learning Journal
Reflective learning journal is useful in cultivating lifelong learners if implemented successfully. However, as a novel idea, the relevance and value of keeping a reflective learning journal are not readily perceivable to many students such that the time and effort it requires can be justified. In this section, we shall share with you some ideas that may help you in implementing reflective learning journal successfully.
Launching the reflective journal keeping
To motivate students in engaging in reflective journal keeping, it is important to show them that the teacher cares and the department supports this continuous assignment, and that it is a worthwhile thing to do. Here are a few reminders and suggestions:
Explain to them clearly what a reflective learning journal is.
If resources allow, provide students with a nice simple binder to keep their journal entries. After all, the collection of entries should be something nice to look at.
Clear instructions and continuous support are important as students might feel quite lost and confused at first, not knowing how to begin. A comprehensive guide might just be what they need.
Preparing a comprehensive guide for a reflective learning journal
The content of the guide should pretty much offers the support and guidance students need, which may vary depending on your course and subject. We suggest the following basic items:
We suggest giving the guide a cover not just to make it look nice, but to convey the objective of the exercise in a direct, visual manner. A nice cover also communicates the importance given to it by the teacher. It is also recommendable to let students design their own cover to personalise their journal.
Briefly introduce what a reflective learning journal is and the benefits of keeping one. This part reinforces the introduction given in class as mentioned above.
Object of reflection What learning experience to reflect on? It could be anything about learning or anything related to the course.
Frequency and length The emphasis should be on quality rather than quantity, on regularity rather than frequency. One major benefit of reflective journal writing is to develop the habit of reflecting on one’s process of learning, and a habit only develop through regular practice over time.
Requirement for submission Because this exercise of journal keeping lasts over a long period of time, it is useful to set some checkpoints to give the exercise a time frame and the teacher an opportunity to give feedback and/or assess the work.
Pattern of Feedback Some feedback is necessary for early entries to make sure that the students are on the right track. The level of feedback depends on the level of interaction and involvement you wish to gain through this activity. Feedback offers guidance and support to students and is important in keeping their interest in making entries. Some teachers used group discussion as a means of feedback and attained very good results (e.g. Sinclair, 2001). Assessment The assessment of reflective journal is a struggle between giving the freedom of writing and guaranteeing the willingness to write. Some teachers resolve this by checking for completion rather than in-depth grading. This frees students the worry of being penalised for writing what comes to their minds, so that personal reflection can take place. If grade is to be given, a protocol of assessment will be a useful guide for students. Here is a sample protocol: No entry or entry not related to the studying of the subject
Provide a descriptive account of one’s study
Provide evaluative account of one’s study with reference to one’s learning process
Demonstrate effort in planning for improvement based on the evaluative outcome of reflection
Guiding questions can be included in the detail guidelines section to help students get a grip on making reflective entries. Guiding questions can aid or hinder reflection. See Designing a Reflective Learning Journal for further discussions.
Help for students
This section provides quick help to making journal entries, offering tips to matters such as content and style of writing. Uncertainties in such matters could make the task much harder thus de-motivates students.
In addition to clear instructions and suitable prompt questions, a sample entry would be most useful for students new to keeping reflective learning journal, as it shows them how the answers to the prompt questions may be put together to form a coherent piece of writing. It is recommendable to write your own sample entry following the instructions and guiding questions you are about to give to your students. This helps you evaluate the feasibility of the task and the comprehensibility of your instructions.
A sample of such a guide for keeping a reflective learning journal is included in the appendix of this document.
Appendix Sample guide for students
In this section you will find a sample guide for the subject Creative and Critical Thinking. It is developed based on and includes components as described in earlier sections. Some components can be used in most cases, while some will need modification to suit the specific needs of your subject. Please note that this is only a sample. We strongly recommend you develop your own according to your needs. For details of developing such a guide please refer to the section on “Implementing reflective learning journal”.
Reflective journal is designed to help you think deeply about your learning, especially on issues such as: your progress in learning, the difficulties you encountered in the process of learning, the strategies you have taken to get around those difficulties, and your evaluation of your own performance.
What can you get from writing reflective learning journal? For the study, writing a reflective learning journal helps you:
Find out the methods of learning which suit your own learning style
Notice how you can improve your learning in the future
Gain a clearer picture of your learning progress and so in a better position to plan your learning
What learning experience to reflect on?
The object of reflection for this journal is your experience in learning during the week. See ‘Detail guidelines’ for the specifics.
Frequency and length expected
Once a week
You are required to make one entry per week, each about 250 words of length. You are advised to make entry regularly rather than leaving it till before a submission date, and the quality of reflection should be the emphasis of your entries rather than worrying about the word count.
Pattern of feedback
All /selected entries
A general feedback will be given to the entries in a submission. If there is an entry that has particular significance to you that you want feedback on, you can mark it with an asterisk on the top right corner and special attention will be given to it.