Monday, 29 October 2012

Journal writing experience

Today is a pretty eventful day! It's the start of a new week, the end of the first half of the school term, and the end of my trial of journal writing techniques. It seems, to me, to be the perfect day to look back over everything I have written in my journal and reflect on the experience so far.

As the reader suggested, I took the last few days to try out different ways of putting my thoughts into my journal. Having looked back at what I have written I can see three main things:
  1. Some ways of writing come more naturally to me than others.
  2. Some types of journal writing seem to lend themselves to particular types of entry than others.
  3. Some ways of writing help me to "dig" deeper into myself than others.
In order to discuss these points in a user-friendly way, I thought I would take some of the types of writing and discuss them in relation to the points above, whilst also referencing information from other sources outside of the Reader.

Description and List
I found these ways of writing very helpful when I needed to get a brief overview of the order of things that took place and what happened. I found that the resulting list, or log (Stevens and Cooper, 2009), was very helpful when I came back to reflect on a particular event, as it was dated, unblurred by a lot of emotion, and each aspect of the event was easy to locate.
I think that I will definitely use this form of journal writing for entries like, for example, things I need to do, notes taken at courses/ meetings, and ideas that come to me on a particular topic. I also feel that listing or describing things will allow me to identify the key issues or topics when I go on to further reflect.

Initial Reflection
As I mentioned in my blog (Radio Silence) I had already discovered, just by the process of continuing to make journal entries, that I moved very quickly from writing lists of things to writing more emotionally about what had occurred. I now realise that this is because it allows me to "let out" any feelings that I would be uncomfortable sharing with others and to validate to myself that 'to feel' is as valuable as 'to know' or 'to act', and part of what makes me the teacher that I am. I have also been able to identify through this way of writing that I am naturally predisposed to write about the negatives rather than the positives and, as I've mentioned in my previous blog, so I've taken steps to include at least one positive event per entry. I hope that this will give me a more balanced, and in turn, more honest journal to reflect on.

By evaluating events in the order of questions suggested in Reader 2 (p18), I was able to start my journal entry from a positive point of view and then look deeper into other aspects of the event. This meant that an idea or event that perhaps I would have dismissed straight into the "don't try that again" pile could be reflected on in a more objective way and compartmentalised into aspects that could be evaluated independantly for their successes or failings.
Not as easy for me to do but I think that this could be a good way of changing my perception when things go wrong, so that instead of "starting from scratch" with an idea that didn't work I can look at it more objectively and identify any valid ideas before rejecting the rest.

Graphs, charts and diagrams
Spider diagrams, mind mapping, concept mapping and brainstorming are all phrases that came to mind in this section. Stevens and Cooper (2009) suggest that sometimes the lines on a page can limit thought in a linear direction whereas blank or graph paper can allow writing to flow in many directions, and, I feel now that, even on lined paper, diagrams and charts can allow for a more multi-dimensional approach to writing.
Even if I am not setting out to make a diagram I have noticed that a lot of my entries turn into a kind of spider diagram. They allow me to expand ideas in several directions at once, take a new piece of information and see how parts of my professional practice relate to it, and see connections between what initially appear to be unrelated thoughts or knowledge. I definitely will use this method of writing if I need to get from a starting point down an, as yet, unknown path or to consider a way of dealing with a situation for which I have no template or exemplar. Or, perhaps, if I hit a dead end in another way of writing.

What if?
This style of writing initially felt to me like a pure flight of fantasy, with no real application to my professional practice - I'm sure we all feel able to idealise what we'd like to happen but then the reality of the situation comes in and limits where we can actually go. But having looked back at the entry where I tried to write "what if?" I noticed that it afforded me the ability to see where I might take steps, or make an action-plan, that could get me nearer to my "ideal world". Taken in a slightly less fantastical version, "time travel" (Stevens and Cooper, 2009) writing could also help me to project a long term view of what I hope to achieve.

Another view
I found writing from another perspective a difficult concept to understand as I felt that I would just end up putting words into other people's mouths from my own biased point of view. However, having read several other writers take on POV writing (Moon, Stevens and Cooper, Schon) I now realise that I can get into a dialogue with anything I may wish to reflect on; my own thoughts, other's reactions, issues that cause me problems, things that recurr in my writing or professional practice - the list is seemingly endless! In turn, allowing me to explore deeper into the situation than first anticipated. This is an aspect of journal writing that I am going to continue to try to develop, perhaps by writing each entry in a dual way - first person then another POV - or by trying to write a conversation with the experience - like the brilliant example Joanna E. Cooper (2009, p.143) gives when she enters into a dialogue with her use of the word "eek".

Having tried and reflected on all these forms of writing I can see that I shall probably be employing aspects of each style in future entries, depending on how relevant they feel and/or whether they help to expand my deeper critical thinking.

To end this blog, there are two other things that I have found particularly interesting from my reading into journal writing:
The two-column method, which I first read about in the book Journal Writing, by Stevens and Cooper (2009, p68-69), is where you divide each page into two columns. I have found that making notes in one column, from Readers and other course-related materials, and then writing my thoughts or how I apply, or could apply, this information into the second column has been great in allowing me to add what knowledge I have or use to what I have just read thereby forging stronger connections. I think it will also allow me the space to go back and reflect on ideas at a later date, perhaps when I have gained more knowledge or experience.

Highlighting involves going back and colour coding the journal into, for example, similar entries, entries that deal with a continuing problem, and recurring themes. I think that this will be a great thing to do at the end of a certain period of time, for example, at the end of a term or topic, to give me an overview of my progression, or lack of, and make it easier to find useful entries later on in my studies or professional practice.

From someone who has never written a diary or blog, or kept a journal before, I'm ending with a (mis)quote from the film Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) "I think I'm gonna need a bigger blog!"

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