Guidelines for Journal Writing

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Guidelines for Journal Writing


As part of your learning experience in this course you are being asked to keep a learning journal. This journal also constitutes a percentage of your grade for the course. The following set of guidelines is provided to help you with this experience.


General Comments


Choosing a good topic is essential. Select an experience that relates to the assigned course topics. You may choose a non-class related experience that you would like to understand better (e.g., there was something about it that you so not totally understand, that intrigues you, that made you realize that you lack certain skills, or that was problematic or significant for you) or write about your in-class experience. If you choose an experience from outside of class, it does not have to be work related; an incident in any setting (sports teams, family, club, church, etc.) that relates to course topics is acceptable


Journal Elements


Concrete Experience


In this section of your journal entry, briefly describe what happens in the experience. These descriptions should contain both objective and subjective components. The objective part should present the facts of the experience, like a newspaper account, without an attempt to analyze the content. In other words, the objective part should describe the who, what, when, where, and how of the experience. The subjective component should describe the feelings, perceptions and thoughts you experienced during the event.


Helpful hints: (1) Replay the experience in your mind. After reviewing the experience, write a report of what you saw, heard, felt, and thought as well as what you heard and saw others doing. (2) Avoid presenting the detailed mechanics of the experience unless they are critical to the remainder of the paper. This section should be no more than 2 or 3 paragraphs long. (3) Avoid reporting feelings and thoughts you experienced after the event being described. This type of retrospection is more appropriate in the reflective observation section.


Reflective Observation


In this section of your journal entry, ask yourself "What did I observed in this experience and what possible meanings could these observations have?" The key task in this section is to gather as many observations as possible by looking at the experience from different points of view. This exercise will help you to become skilled in "perspective taking' or "re-framing." Try to look at this experience and describe it from different perspectives. For example, how did other participants view the situation and what did it mean to them? What would a neutral observer have seen and heard? Now that you are older, do you see the situation differently? What perspective did your parents have, if any? Look beneath the surface and try to explain why the people involved behaved they did.


Helpful hints: (1) Discuss the experience with others to gain their views and clarify their perceptions. (2) "Unhook" yourself from the experience and meditate (think) about it in a relaxed atmosphere. Mull over your observations until their personal meaning comes clear to you. Try to figure out why people, and you in particular, behaved as they did. What can you learn about yourself, looking back on the experience? If you write about a conflict or interaction, be sure to analyze both sides and put yourself in the shoes of the other people involved.


Abstract Conceptualization


In this section of your journal entry, relate assigned readings, lectures, (other readings are acceptable if you provide references for the instructor) to what you experienced. This process will help you link theories and concepts discussed in class to real life situations. While some assigned readings will have varying degrees of relevance to your experience, it is important that you make several references and not just limit your conceptualizations to just one source. Use at least (and preferably) one concept or theory from the readings. Provide the source for each course reference in the following manner: (textbook, p. 31). If you use a reference from outside of the course, please provide the following: the author(s), year of publication, title, and page number(s). This will help the instructor in his own experiential learning.


By reviewing theoretical material, you should be able to identify specific theories or concepts that relate to your experience. First, briefly define the concept or theory that relate to your experience as you would for someone not familiar with it. Next, apply the concept thoroughly to your experience. Does the experience support or refute the theory? Avoid merely providing a book report of what you have read. You should discuss in some detail how you see concepts and theories relating to your experiences.


Helpful hints: (1) It is sometimes useful to identify theoretical concepts first and then search out and elaborate on an experience that relates to the concepts. (2) A slightly more difficult approach is to reverse the above procedure and search out those concepts that apply to your experience.


Active Experimentation


In this section of your journal entry, summarize the practical lessons you have learned and the action steps you will take to be more effective in the future. These ideas can be stated in the form of rules of thumb or action resolutions. (Future actions must be based on the experience reported in Concrete Experience and linked to the theories and concepts discussed in Abstract Conceptualization.) You should elaborate in adequate detail how you see your action plans being carried out. Be specific and thorough. Include at least one action resolution that is based upon new knowledge that you gained about yourself as a result of writing the paper. Present at least two things that you have learned and a well-thought out description of how you will apply them in the future. For example, if you were to relive the experience, what would you do differently? If you were the manager in the story, what would you do differently? Based on the insight you've gained about yourself and others, how would you handle a similar situation in the future?


Helpful hints: (1) Project a future experience in which you envision the implementation of your ideas and then elaborate on that experience as a way of demonstrating how your actions will be carried out. (2) Where does this model exist in your life (home, work, school)? Do you need a support system to make it happen? Someone to "contract" with? (3) Try to imagine the final results of your experimentation. What will it be like if you accomplish what you want to do?


Integration and Synthesis


Well written journal entries have a focal issue and story line with themes that are carried throughout each of the four sections. The idea of synergy ("The whole is greater than the sum of its parts") applies here. If integration is present, then the reader can attend to the content without distraction; if integration is absent, it is difficult for the reader to have a full appreciation of the content.


Other barriers that prevent the reader from fully appreciating the paper's content are spelling and grammatical errors. Since good writing skills are important in practically all types of work, there should be no errors in your journals.


Helpful hints: (1) Integration is largely a matter of good writing skills. When writing journal entries, keep in mind the following points:


1. Decide what one or two main points you wish to convey and make sure that you do.


2. Label each section: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, etc.


3. Transitions are important (between sentences, paragraphs, and sections) and make the paper flow.


4. The four sections should be equally well developed and fairly similar in length.
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