Journal Writing and Adult Learning

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Journal Writing and Adult Learning

The value of journal writing to a course with adult students cannot be overemphasized. (Sommer 1989, p. 115)

Journals and diaries have a long history as a means of self-expression. Several themes prevalent in adult learning--coming to voice, developing the capacity for critical reflection, and making meaning--are reflected in the way journals can be used in adult education. Journals are useful learning tools in a variety of adult education settings. Dialog journals, for example, have become popular in adult literacy and English as a second language classrooms. This digest focuses on several types of journals, exploring their value in assisting adults through their learning journey and summarizing advice from the literature on effective ways to use journals.

Types of Journals

One type is the reader response journal or literature log, in which learners record their responses to readings. Used on all levels from adult basic education through graduate study, such logs enable readers to enter the literature in their own voice (Perham 1992), placing themselves in relation to the text and discovering what they think about it. Over time, the log itself becomes another primary text to which they can respond (Perl 1994). Usually, entries are shared with the class, stimulating discussion. In one variation described by Perham, a looseleaf notebook accessible to the whole class becomes a collaborative journal in which learners and teacher make ongoing comments. Both Perham and Perl feel that these response journals have the power to build a community of learners though the process of critical co-reading and co-writing.

The learning journal is a systematic way of documenting learning and col...

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Roe, M. F., and Stallman, A. C. "A Comparative Study of Dialogue and Response Journals." Presented at the American Educational Research Association conference, 1993. (ED 359 242)

Schatzberg-Smith, K. "Dialogue Journal Writing and the Initial College Experience of Academically Underprepared Students." Presented at the American Educational Research Association conference, 1989. (ED 308 737)

Schneider, P. The Writer as an Artist. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1994.

Sommer, R. F. Teaching Writing to Adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.

Surbeck, E.; Han, E. P.; and Moyer, J. "Assessing Reflective Responses in Journals." Educational Leadership 48 (March 1991): 25-27. (EJ 422 850)

Walden, P. "Journal Writing: A Tool for Women Developing as Knowers." New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education no. 65 (Spring 1995): 13-20. (EJ 502 496)
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