Instructional journaling for improved teaching and learning
Monday, January 25, 2016
Teachers of students with learning disabilities make multitudes of curricular and instruction decisions in any given day. Therefore, they must know the instructional methodology they are choosing is effective.
Because special educators are always learning and improving their craft, reflection by journaling is an important piece of this decision-making process.
When teachers were in preservice training, many were asked by their instructors and evaluators to reflect about their teaching practices by journaling. Current research also includes a plethora of articles about preservice teachers' reflection of practice by journaling.
This practice of journaling is appropriate for teachers beyond their preservice days.
Instructional journaling is a combination of critical journaling and reflective thinking. Reflective thinking was explored and explained by Dewey in 1933, yet is a contemporary issue addressed by many teacher leaders. Dewey indicated that self-reflection, or questioning one's own practice, is essential for a teacher's effectiveness.
Continuing the self-reflection idea by use of journaling was explored by Hiemstra (2001) as he described three categories of journaling that can be used by teachers:
Learning journals (topical)
- Written by teacher for self
- Thoughts, reflections, feelings, opinions during and about educational experience
Diary journals (chronological)
- Written by teacher for self
- Sequentially recorded thoughts, reflections, reactions to teaching and learning experiences
- Written by teacher for others
- Can include topical and/or chronological experiences, thoughts, development
Special educators are challenged by the professional responsibility of a pedagogy that balances the intake of many types of information. They teach students who have unique needs, collaborate with professionals to meet the IEP of each student, and support families by providing information and input for children's development.
Journals can be used in various ways to support a special educator in her numerous roles and relationships.
Using a journal to record daily educational experiences can be a continuous resource as the special educator critiques her instruction and evaluates her students' growth. She can read what has occurred in her teaching and make educational decisions about continuing or changing methodology.
The notes included in the journals can be used as anecdotal comments for individual students. These comments can be referred to when making decisions about the student's education plan and whether instructional choices have been successful. This also provides an ongoing professional development piece that may suggest new ideas that need to be explored for greater teacher effectiveness.
The record of teaching in the journal becomes an artifact that can be used for educational research as special educators collaborate to answer questions together. When special educators choose a specific topic or issue to study, it can be supported by each using a journal to reflect, answer and ask questions, and collect data.
Writers who have dedicated planning to develop ways to journal for professional outcomes have indicated there is no right or wrong way to journal. It is a means of collecting thoughts that are often fleeting in the life of a special educator.
A tool for professional development, growth and instructional improvement that is flexible and enjoyable at the same time is a tool that has the possibility of being a powerful interactive change-maker.
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