Journaling As A Tool In The Online Course Room: Part 2: Synthesis and Evaluation

By Nancy A. Walker, Ph.D.

In my June 9, 2011 entry, I began to look at journaling as a tool in the online classroom and how journaling can help students succeed. As we continue to look at journaling from the perspective of a “tool” for use in the online classroom, it is important to note that synthesis and evaluation are both important variables for undergraduate a graduate students. Online faculty can use journaling to bring Bloom’s Taxonomy full circle per understanding and facilitation on behalf of the student’s forward growth in any subject area. Bloom’s Taxonomy never gets old. The use of this intricate and highly applicable educational model is the professor’s “survival guide” to aiding the student in higher level thinking and knowledge.

In light of using perspectives and models of educational psychology to promote learning and the full use of Bloom’s Taxonomy, (student-wise) we are seeing “reflecting via journaling” becoming further recognized in the online academic community over the last year. Journaling is an excellent tool for implementation on behalf of the student and overall academic institution. Journaling is being utilized in measuring program success and it via rewarding student insight/introspection.

For example, using journaling for student portfolios is an application which promotes suitability. Students are able to note how and why their thinking and writing has evolved over the course of a program or class. Having students write a short essay about how they think they have changed since they started a program, and what they have done differently in practice as a result of what they have learned, is key to evolution and synthesis per application of critical thought. As such, this practice measures both program and student success. It can be utilized as an outcomes-based qualitative assessment. It is also used in instructional design and writing objectives.

On behalf of the student, journaling doesn’t have to be absolutely detailed. For personal and professional growth via academics and personal insight for example, students can update weekly journals in a continued approach to academic programs, research methodologies, and the ability to keep their cognitive “juices” flowing. Updating what the student has done or will do differently is a worthy approach to analysis and evaluation. Sometimes, simple fits the bill.

In light of graduate learning for example, integration of an online journaling system for students to be able to write per reflection and to have information stored for themselves for later use can be extremely beneficial. Having recorded data and information to look back upon promotes and records evaluation and synthesis of work. This facet is especially pertinent in using this typed approach to conduct literature reviews. It is also applicable via information assessment and methodology process to streamline ethics, peer review, and data conclusive insights.  Tracking students’ ideas of methodologies and how their ideas of such methodologies change at all after they apply them can be very useful in academic programming and continued online instruction protocols. The use of electronic journaling is a great service to offer students for personal growth, via methodologies, process evaluation and via doctoral “idea” results. For example, having a “personal space” (confidential) and also a “public journaling space” can assistance in student development and faculty tracking/assessment.

As we can see that journaling is not only for self-reflection. It can and is being used as an integral aid in academics. It is very valuable per online use due to the promotion of higher level critical thinking that can be continued in this type of academic atmosphere. This is a benefit to online learning and instruction. We cannot full ascertain this dynamic in brick-and-mortar. There are chief benefits that come to online instruction and learning. “A kind of synthesis, but with some elements that perhaps you wouldn’t have expected in advance. I always like that when that happens, when something comes that is more than the sum of the parts” (Parker, 2011). Ah, isn’t this just educationally stunning?

As we see that the terminology in Bloom’s Taxonomy has changed over the course of a decade…we now have more concurrent wording that reflects society on whole. We have replaced evaluation and synthesis with more poetic wording of evaluating and creating; either way, there is that stimulus to grow. Journaling creates the environment to produce that continued stimulus and response for student development.

About the Teacher in Pajamas: Dr. Nancy Walker earned a BA in Liberal Arts/Psychology from Saint Vincent College, and a BA in Elementary Education K-8 with a specialization in Spanish from Seton Hill University. She earned an MS in General Psychology with specialization in Educational/Developmental Psychology from Capella University. She has a Ph.D. in General Psychology with specialization in Lifespan Development from Capella University. She has a wonderful husband and two, older daughters that share in the love of learning and helping others to learn and grow, too. They spend most of their time involved in community and church outreaches that are foundational in education, social service, and missions work. They also enjoy traveling and playing basketball and softball.

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