“Creme (2005) notes that [when we ask teaching students to write a reflective journal] we require more than a personal voice: we ask our students to open themselves up in the process of writing on very personal experiences, which means being honest and authentic in what they write. This involves taking a risk in the content they write” (Pavlovich 2007:285)
This is perhaps one of the reasons I do not feel that a blog is the best place to have a reflective journal as at times it is not possible to be honest or authentic or to take a risk in what is written. As Pavlovich (2007) also states the writing of a reflection should allow the author free rein to identify and examine their experiences, to make sense of things which did not make sense at the time, to look back (reflect) on what has happened or how they felt and adjust their behaviour, learn from mistakes and move forward. People can’t do this not because of their own shortcomings but because their experiences might sometimes involve interaction with others and those others might self identify (rightly or wrongly) and become offended especially if the reflection is not supported by a whole lot of context.
If blogs are to be used as seats of professional reflection for teachers or trainee teachers then there needs to be a healthy discussion between those involved first which explains what a blog is, what the point of sharing information and thought is and raising the intent up above a Facebook level of mentality and empowering people to discuss, debate and disagree in an intellectual manner, with reason befitting a higher level academic and professional. A class of students is aware that what they write is open for scrutiny by their peers and anybody else but they should also be advised that scrutiny and comment should take place constructively on the blog (via comments facility) in the open manner it was presented and intended by the author.
We need to ensure that people are aware that sometimes for debating purposes ideas and concepts are thrown out to evoke a reaction, to get a debate going and sometimes a person is entitled to their own feelings and thoughts and entitled to express them how they wish. If a person feels they have been treated unfairly and is not able to reflect on that how can they learn from it? How can they see where maybe they are right to feel the way they do or where they may need to consider a point of view to highlight an area for development? What is the point of a reflective journal if the author has to lie about how they feel or mask true feelings? The most difficult experiences are the ones we learn the most from after all.
It’s a shame as I feel that it’s a fantastic way of keeping a journal and for people to identify elements of themselves in others, to feel supported, not to feel alone and to find inspiration, coping mechanisms and all manner of other outstretched hands of mutual encouragement and knowledge to grasp on to. I love reading the blogs of others, sometimes I don’t agree and I say so (that’s what comments are for) sometimes I do agree and I say so (again that’s what comments are for).
I think one of the biggest problems with blogs is they are not understood, they are not used correctly and as an academic tool I agree with another interesting point made by Moon (1999) in Pavlovich (2007):
“when journals are graded, the grade becomes the emphasis that constrains free expression and creativity, supporting strategic approaches to learning” (Moon 1999 cited in Pavlovich 2007:286).
Additionally, Kennison and Misselwitz (2002) commenting on the usefulness of reflective journals feel that when a journal is not being graded, students don’t bother either to create or maintain it which makes it an ineffective reflective tool. Although I would argue that this is subjective and hinges heavily on the intrinsic motivation of the student; a student has to be self-motivated to want to use a journal to share experience, to reflect on practice and theory and to be able to appreciate the value of honest reflective practice without seeking a reward or recognition to fully embrace the upkeep of a reflective journal.
Some useful further reading from the authors mentioned in this piece:
Creme, P. (2005). Should student learning journals be assessed? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 3093), 287-296
Kennison, M., & Misselwitz, S. (2002). Evaluating reflective writing for appropriateness, fairness and consistency. Nursing Education Perspectives, 23(5), 238-242
Moon, J. A. (1999). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. London: Kogan Page
Pavlovich, K. (2007). The development of reflective practice through student journals. Higher Education Reserach and Development, 26(3), 281-295