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A Year of Living Positively -Day 136

I thought I would share an excerpt from my scholastic paper on the benefits of journal writing with you, as it fits the current sub-theme of this blog in this second volume. This excerpt is the first part of a short paper based on a poster presentation at an academic education conference which was written for a conference proceedings presentation.

In this paper, I write about my experience with a form of journal writing that took a creative turn. The result was my book of short stories about young adult learners of English in Korea, and their career dilemmas, obstacles and decisions.

It is a useful lesson to ponder in this blog on positive thinking because it shows how journal writing can spur on growth and creativity. It can give rise to intellectual and other life accomplishments important for personal, social and career development.

"As far as I know, teachers who use journal writing as a method of self-reflection of teaching simply describe and reflect on the lesson planning, the lesson planning process, the application of the methods in the classroom and the observed implementation, and the student responses to the methods. They usually discuss how successful the methods have been and how the methods might be developed or substituted. They might also discuss the teacher-student relationship.
"All journal writing is simultaneously an investigative method and a learning process. Teachers often employ journal writing as a student activity in their classes to facilitate and extend learning. Speaking at a local KOTESOL symposium for teachers primarily on methods of teaching English as a foreign language in April, a colleague cited this definition of the function of journals as tools of reflection. He was talking specifically about how students can learn a foreign language through journal writing, though it can be applied to journal writing in general.
"'One of the most recognized uses of journals is to help facilitate reflection, a critical component of the experiential education cycle. Through journals, students can record a concrete experience, reflect on and record their observations about the experience, integrate the observation into abstract concepts or theories, and use the theories to make decisions or solve problems. (Dyment & O'Connell, 2003)' [1].
"The colleague made a second citation in his presentation. “Students become more engaged and more reflectiveof both the course material and how to best learn it (Fritson, Forrest, Bohl, 2011)” [1]. This quote brings up the point that journal writing, by aiding reflection, makes the author more engaged with himself and the environment. Engagement is another goal of journal composition. It is an outcome of recording observations, noting responses, and thinking about them. Journal writing, then, can bring about social and psychological consequences.
"What about the teacher writing his or her own journal so as to facilitate learning about teaching, and learning about students? Humble and Sharp [2], experts in qualitative research methods themselves, wrote about their project of keeping and sharing a journal about their experience in teaching graduate students. Using Flavell’s term “metacognition,” they claim that journal writing enhances metacognitive awareness, and they identified three benefits of teacher journal writing through their project: clarity, confidence and connection.
"They claim that, “journaling is an important tool for educators as it enhances one’s learning through the ‘examination, clarification, and critique of pedagogical ideas and practices’ (Kaplan, Rupley, Sparks, & Holcomb, 2007, pp. 358-359),” adding that it can be helpful in both the short and long term (2012, p. 3) [2]. According to a quote they make by Hatton and Smith (1995), they name four types of pedagogical reflection: (a) descriptive writing, (b) descriptive reflection, (c) dialogic reflection, and (d) critical reflection. What is different about their journaling project, report Humble and Sharp, is that they used a co-constructive process involving more than one journal author.

"My experiment, however, is a reflection of the context, identity and purpose of the learner in acquiring English proficiency through formal schooling and other means. In addition, it is an examination of the relationship between a teacher of English as a foreign language, and learners of English as a foreign language, though not all particular students of that teacher. My project was an exercise in thinking about the English language learners I had been meeting in the first years of my life in South Korea, not all of whom were my students.
"It must be pointed out that this project did not begin as a reflective journal writing project, though it was a result of reflection of my role and experience as a teacher, in and outside the class. Rather, the journal writing began as an accident. It really arose out of my growing interest in writing creatively. I thought I would be writing short fictional stories with fictional characters inspired by real people. I started out with the memory of a few of the young adult learners of English as a foreign language and my encounters and conversations with them. I found myself writing about them and their actual words and circumstances instead of inventing stories. The work was creative in that I extended or filled in gaps of their stories as they had told them to me, imagining how they must have experienced certain life episodes I knew had occurred, or how resolutions to their questions and decision-making processes may have played out. Thus, I was equipped with facts, and I dramatized anecdotes of my experience with them or the anecdotes of their lives that they had described to me on paper. It was later that I realized I had, in fact, composed a sort of journal, though not a type of journal I had ever heard about.

"This journal writing was my private enterprise. I was enjoying the memory, and putting down some memories for posterity. I found it was a good way to review things, and that reviewing had benefits for teaching and for strangers in a strange land. I had not planned on publishing them."

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