True learning creates actual changes in the learner's thinking, attitudes and behaviours. A good way to assess the degree of change within a student over the course of a semester is through a REFLECTIVE JOURNAL. Students maintain a journal throughout the term following your guidelines, prompts and deadlines for reflection along the way. Good journals demonstrate the students’ self-awareness of changes that have occurred within themselves, along with an understanding of HOW and WHY they occurred.

What is a Reflective Journal?

"Your learning journal is a commentary on your learning curve. It should reflect not just what you have learned but how you've learned it. What were the key turning points in your understanding of the subject area? Remember that a learning journal unfolds in time: it's not the same thought pattern at one stage as at the next. But you also need to show the continuities between one stage of development and the next. One strategy you can use is to reflect back on what you said earlier and let your reader know when and why you changed your mind. This is called "metacognition" or "recursion." It means you're thinking about your writing AS you write. In effect, you're drawing a map of your thought process in the midst of the process itself. Obviously, a learning journal is a dynamic entity, subject to alterations, changes in direction, etc. during the time it's being composed." (Learning Journals I | URegina Student Success Centre)

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  • Insist that journals show a mixture of content and process: there should be a balance between the reflections and the underlying content/theory and disciplinary skills.
  • Engage in purposeful, meaningful reflection that encourage a “big picture” perspective: the writing must be personally and emotionally relevant to the student, and it must show them making connections between the learning they are doing and the real world.
  • Critical reflection: students should critically reflect on their own learning, connecting their experience to theory and gaining insight into themselves and their interactions with the world. Students can also consider how their new skills, knowledge and experiences are transferrable to other situations or environments, including those outside of academia.

(adapted from McGill University Guidelines for assessment of experiential learning)

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