Everyone has generally got to grips with the most superficial level of reflection, so the ‘stopping to have a think about what I did this week’ aspect has been met across the board. That’s great. What’s not so great is that many of the journals are still, even in Week 5, not really getting beyond this level, and are still focused on having a little thinky and making some brief notes about how you felt about the week, possibly with some tangential comments about the week’s readings. The thing that seems to be missing is the critical thinking about your learning, enabling you to reach the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
To break that down further, some people seem to be struggling with the idea of what ‘learning’ is or how they can problematize their experience when everything seems to be chugging along (more or less) fine, which leads them to feel that they can’t write a substantive learning journal for that week. I want to suggest that if you find yourself in this situation, you’re just not being reflective enough! Ask more questions of yourself – if everything seems to be moving along without any bumps in the road, why might that be? However good things are, there is always scope for improvement. What could you do to make things work (even) better? Are you really functioning that well as a team, or is there some groupthink and reluctance to cause conflict that is inhibiting people from offering dissenting views? Are you reluctant to voice alternative strategy suggestions in case they fail? What about the readings – is there a perspective you disagree with? Why? What alternative view or solution would you argue for? Do they make sense to you?
If I was being cynical, I might think that some of you are still caught in the mental space of being a reluctant reflector – aiming to just get two or three hundred words bashed out just before submission deadline to satisfy the letter of the assignment requirement. This is not to suggest that the quantity of your reflection correlates directly to the quality (there are equally some examples of lengthy but waffly journal submissions which talk around the issues but never quite come to the point), but if you haven’t given yourself the space in which to engage in cogent reflective articulation, your learning journal will only ever skate over the surface of the learning you’re doing during this paper – which in turn will undermine the further accumulation of learning and insight as you go along. And however delighted your reviewers might be to see a short entry for them to read through, it won’t do you any favours in the long run.
With reference to journal reviews, the other issue I’ve noticed is the quality of the journal feedback. In large part, this is also often very superficial (and is too often not getting above the level of ‘nice journal but you made a couple of grammatical errors’). As it clearly states in the journal wiki instructions, issues with spelling and grammar should be the minor, rather than major, part of your feedback. I wonder if there is some concern that if your review feedback is perceived as ‘harsh’, then you may in turn ‘suffer’ when you come to be reviewed by that person? This really shouldn’t be a consideration; if you want to look at it in selfish terms, if you contribute to a general feedback inadequacy by offering hastily written, poor quality, disengaged feedback on learning journals, you’ll only be able to receive the same type of peer feedback on your own learning journals – which won’t give you any constructive cues about how your reflections can be improved, and which will again undermine your learning. Done well, peer feedback can be a powerful tool for learning, which is one reason it’s part of this paper.
Mike’s bikes is absorbing. Decision making, working in your teams, navigating and negotiating the complexities of roles and relationships, responsibilities and rationales are compelling ways to use your study time for the paper – and that is particularly true given that the stakes are raised now that practice rollovers are no longer an option. However, what is ultimately at stake from writing superficial or inadequate learning journals is 80% of your final mark. If you don’t write deeply reflective, structured journals as you go along, you’re very unlikely to be able to write your final summative journal in a way which reflects your total learning on the paper. Whatever you come up with at the end of the course will be reflective of where you are at that point, and too much of how you got there will have been lost along the way. (Generally, humans are pretty good at convincing themselves that whatever opinion they currently hold is the one they had all along…) Your weekly journals need to lead you to an a posteriori knowledge about your learning on the course, structured in a way that makes clear that you have followed Daudelin’s (or Kolb’s) model.