Using a learning journal simply does not have to be difficult. There isn’t a reason to make it complicated! Make it what you want it to be. I have several learning journals and each serves a purpose for my lifestyle. I have a journal for:
- catch-all (For whatever I am reading or don’t want to forget later.)
What is a learning journal?
It is nothing more than a collection of notes, thoughts, drawings, sketches, observations and information which comes your way. It is kept in a collected space (such as a notebook) to enhance your learning, make connections and build upon prior knowledge. DaVinci kept beautiful learning journals!
Why use a learning journal?
Obviously, the greatest answer to this question will be a personal one. Why do it? For me, I do it because it helps me to recall information and to make connections between old and new information. Other reasons:
- To keep a record of what you are learning to recall upon at a later date.
- To notate what you may still need to learn.
- To record learning or professional goals.
- To write down your feelings, trepidation and excitements about a learning experience.
- To chart personal learning preferences.
- To discover a solution.
How to use a learning journal?
Just start. Find a notebook that you particularly enjoy. This is a challenge in my home which leads to a complete mutiny of teenage boys. They protest with great volume when I state I need to shop for a new journal! They hate the process as I walk around a store, opening notebooks and journals until I find the perfect one. (I currently have an affinity for the Moleskine -large, squared.)
The process is different just as individuals are unique. My process is to record a general idea I am investigating. In this picture, I was looking for information about how to increase productivity since I had moved from a job on campus -away from home – to working from my home office. I was finding it challenging to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by my dogs, children, housework, laundry, errands —- etc. etc. etc.
Other times, my process works differently. I may find a quote I particularly enjoy and investigate the topic further -which is how I came about researching self-directed learning. Another time, I had an author I enjoyed reading -Martin Seligman and continued through, reading all of his materials while recording thoughts and notes.
A complete and comprehensive process is associated with reflective learning. This is a process which helps to obtain a solution to a particular problem.
In looking through my journals, I believe the greatest benefit I’ve received is having a record not just my experiences but my learning processes. I can see how I have grown as an individual, educator, mother, guide, counselor and spouse. It has provide me with opportunities to witness my growth and for material to guide my time to reflect on what is most important. My learning journals have cultivated my strengths, identified my weaknesses and magnified my purpose.
By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson
Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.